USO of New England and the Boston Celtics Put Families in Touch…on the Jumbotron!

Recently, USO of New England and the Boston Celtics made dreams come through with their “Seats for Soldiers” program, giving away free tickets to over 500 service members and their families.  Even more amazing, these families were virtually connected to local soldiers live on the Jumbotron from USO Baghdad!

Executive Director Jean M. Mallon shared some thoughts on the event, giving “A big kudos and thank you from USO New England and all of the service members and families of the 101engineers who participated in the live video “shout out” at the Seats for Soldiers Celtics game on Friday evening.

We invited the families of the members to the game, and in addition to seeing their loved ones hailed by the crowd we were able to bring them to the AV room, so they could have a few moments to say hello in private. It was a great morale boost for all.”

Jack Swayze, the IT Administrator for the USO, was called in to coordinate the technical aspects so the families could connect.  “This was an amazing event,” explained Swayze.  “Not only were we able to bring happiness to the troops and their families, but I was able to use some fun technology to achieve the goal. I’m not a big Basketball fan, but I did watch the entire game with the guys, so I could watch them enjoy themselves and see their excitement when  they talked to their families and loved ones. It was one of the best video streaming events I have been apart of.”

We are so proud of our staff, volunteers, Boston Celtics fans, and everyone who brought this event together.  But most importantly, we’re proud of our Troops serving here and abroad; we’re honored to provide that touch of home for them.  Check out the photos below!

Troops at USO Baghdad share some smiles and laughter as they realize their families are viewing them on the Jumbotron during the Celtics "Seats for Soldiers" event.

It's a family reunion of sorts in the AV room at the Garden as a Mom and her Daughter say hi to Dad, serving overseas and on screen courtesy of the USO.

Service members were also honored at the game. Several of them took the opportunity to pose with the Celtics Dancers on the court at half time.

A Reality Check

From the Desk of John Hanson, SVP of Communications at the USO:

Oscar-nominated actor Jeremy Renner and TAPS founder Bonnie Carroll at the TAPS screening of The Hurt Locker in August 2009.

Okay.  Maybe it’s time to take a breath about The Hurt Locker. [Ed. note: take a moment to read an interview with the film’s Anthony Mackie and see how he supports the troops.] Some vets are offended that it wasn’t completely accurate.  Fair enough.   It wasn’t a documentary.  Films about, say journalists (All the President’s Men, or Broadcast News, for example) aren’t, either, but they’re entertaining and provide SOME insight.  I’m not all that sure Wall Street was completely accurate, but it was educational in a way.

So, Hurt Locker, didn’t provide absolute accuracy.  The explosions were too pretty for my taste, but it was a feature film.  What can we take from it?

There’s a feeling across the land that Americans aren’t engaged in Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom.  Americans feel it, veterans sense it, and that might be what we should expect.

There’s no draft.  Until the 70s, if there was an 18-year-old male in a household, there was at least a reasonable chance that he’d be in the military.  Today, that isn’t the case.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not arguing for a draft.  Today’s military is too good to go back to that model.  But, as great and talented and committed as our troops are, they’re a really small part of the population.  When they get out of the military, they tend to do what every generation of veterans does – go to school, get jobs, raise families and be extremely valuable parts of their communities.

Few wear their decorations on their suits.  Very few even let you know they served, unless you ask them.  They just become the strongest threads of the fabric of this country.

Part of me would like welcome home parades and all that kind of thing.  A big part of me would love for the country to take a moment – it can even be a random moment – to thank troops and their families for their service and sacrifice.  Not because those of us who served a generation ago didn’t get that, but because it would be a proper and polite thing to do.  It’s about more than thanking a service member in an airport.  It’s about more than misting up on Memorial Day.  It’s about recognizing that service and sacrifice are responsibilities each of us bears in different ways.  Some just run the risk of paying a higher price.

And, understand the stress of one deployment to Afghanistan to Iraq can be debilitating in some ways.  Never mind 3 or 4 deployments.  These troops and vets need our support and understanding.  Our wounded warriors shouldn’t be ignored, either.

So, maybe this Best Picture Academy Award® (I love trademarks) winner deserves something more from us.  Maybe it requires that we look at it as a learning opportunity.  In our communities there are OIF/OEF vets quietly putting their lives back together, and they are doing their part to making our lives better.

Let’s return the favor.