This Week’s Snag Film: Darkon

Grab the popcorn and get ready to suspend reality – at least temporarily – for the latest offering from Snag Films’ USO Theater!

DARKON is a feature documentary that follows the real-life adventures of an unusual group of weekend “warrior knights,” fantasy role-playing gamers whose live action “battleground” is modern-day Baltimore, Maryland, re-imagined as a make-believe medieval world named Darkon. These live action gamers combine the physical drama of historical re-enactments with character-driven storylines inspired in part by such perennial favorite fantasy epics like the legends of King Arthur, Lord of the Rings, and the saga of Conan the Barbarian. As role players, they create alter-egos with rich emotional, psychological, and social lives. They costume themselves and physically act out their characters exploits both in intimate court intrigue and campouts and in panoramic battle scenarios involving competitive strategies, convincingly real props, and full contact “combat.” Because real life so often gets in the way, its easy to understand these players’ motivations. Everybody wants to be a hero.

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Pro vs. GI Joe – Doin’ a Little for Those Who Do a Lot

by Addie Zinone, Co-Founder of Pro vs. GI Joe

I have a love-love relationship with the USO. I love the organization as a soldier who benefits greatly from their programs and services, but I also love the USO because, through a unique and mutually beneficial partnership, my husband and I have seen our vision for connecting troops serving around the world through video games become a reality.

I’ve been in the Army Reserve since 2002. I am a Staff Sergeant assigned to the 222d Broadcast Operations Detachment in Los Angeles and I’ve served two tours of duty in Iraq. It is because of my service that my husband (who doesn’t serve) wanted to give back to those of us in uniform. One day in 2007, just a few months before my second tour began, Greg came up with the idea for Pro vs. GI Joe.

Addie Zinone - Co-founder of Pro vs. GI Joe - set up a web cam to help the troops in Baghdad prepare for the next round. (Photo courtesy of Temple University)

Pro vs. GI Joe is a non-profit organization that sets up real-time video game competitions between professional athletes and celebrities and troops serving all over the world via online gaming. In addition to playing games online, we also invite local troops to attend in-person and when possible, we get the friends and families of the troops participating overseas in on the action. Not only do the troops get to compete against their favorite celebrities and athletes but they also get to chat and talk trash via live webcam feed with them and their family members in attendance. It’s a simple idea that produces amazing results.

The reaction to Pro vs. GI Joe events has been nothing short of amazing. From the troops who participate both overseas and stateside, their family and friends, the athletes and celebrities and the USO Centers around the world, everyone seems to have a great experience. We are connecting troops to their heroes on the gridiron and hardwood – despite the thousands of miles that separate them – and we’re doing it through an activity they love – video games.

We are also making history.

Members of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers play Guitar Hero 5 against troops at the USO Center in Qatar, Nov 09. Family members of the troops participating from Qatar are also on hand for the event at Bucs stadium.

Together, Pro vs. GI Joe and the USO brought online gaming to troops serving in the Middle East for the very first time. Prior to this partnership, online gaming wasn’t available in combat zones. And there has never been anything like Pro vs. GI Joe, a concept that connects soldiers to their communities, in real-time through video games and webcams, from wherever they are stationed in the world. None of this would be possible without the USO and their hardworking and dedicated staff and volunteers who dedicate hours to making these events great for the troops all over the world. To date, we’ve held Pro vs. GI Joe events at USO centers in Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait, Dubai, Japan, Korea, Qatar, Germany and of course in various centers here in the states. We’ve connected troops with athletes from the NBA, NFL, MLB, NASCAR, UFC and IRL while also attending the biggest sporting events in the world. What these events do is allow troops to relax and enjoy a few hours of fun while connecting with their family members and talking trash to their athletic heroes. They walk away with an experience only they get because they choose to wear the uniform and serve our country.

While the experience is great for the troops and their families, it’s usually greater for the athletes because they’re truly humbled by the experience. They are amazed that something so little can do so much. Seeing the smiles on the faces of the troops via webcam while they’re playing Reggie Bush and Shaquille O’Neal is pretty gratifying but seeing the tears and laughter when the game-play is over and the family reunions begin is priceless. It’s truly the reason we do what we do and it’s a privilege to work alongside the USO, an organization whose work inspires us, to continue creating life-long experiences for our military men and women serving around the world.

Click here to see the latest installment of Pro vs. GI Joe on G4′s “Attack of the Show.”  The opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of Addie Zinone and do not necessarily reflect those of the USO.

Angel Flight Northeast Announces Angels for Armed Forces® Program

The USO and Angel Flight Northeast are proud to announce the creation of the Angels for Armed Forces® program, which “provides free flights to military personnel and veterans, who need to access medical care.  It also provides flights for military family members who need to travel to visit injured service members and whose financial resources do not permit them to travel by commercial airlines. These flights are conducted by AFNE volunteer pilots, many being veterans themselves, who share not only a love of flying, but also have a deep commitment to helping others. They donate their time, their airplanes, all expenses of the flight, and mostly, their hearts to serve their community and those in need.”  Awesome!

Read more about the program by clicking here and feel free to print out the poster below to let qualified active duty Troops, veterans, and military family members know about this great new program.

Photo of the Day: We Need Your Help!

We’ve been hitting the photo archives here at the USO.  We have lots of historical information when it comes to what we do, but every now and again ever we get stumped.

This is a close-up shot from a picture of five service women participating in Armed Services Day in what looks to be Times Square in the 1940s. The exact year is unknown. Her uniform is long-sleeved, since the season dictates which uniform is worn.

But who or what is she a member of?  Can you identify the insignia/patches on her clothing?  Have similar pictures?  Leave a comment and help us solve the mystery of this woman…

Did We Tell You How to Get to Sesame Street?

Landon Morgan, age 18 months gets a kiss from his father Specialist Benjamin Morgan before the start of the Sesame Street/USO Experience for Military Families at Fort Knox Army base in Kentucky, April 18, 2010. Phase IV of the traveling show kicked-off at Fort Knox with shows on April 17th and 18th. (USO Photo by Pat McDonogh)

It’s easy to get to Sesame Street: catch up with the Sesame Street/USO Experience on a base near you!  Phase IV kicked off stateside in April and will be on tour through September.  We’ve listed May’s schedule at the end of this post and you can see the full schedule online by clicking here.  We hope to see you there!

In the meantime, enjoy some pictures from the kick-off event at Fort Knox and a quick video from their stop at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling…

Hundreds of military familes gather at the Natcher Gym in Fort Knox, Kentucky for the Sesame Street /USO Experience for Military Families, April 18, 2010. The free traveling tour for military families is making it's second trek across the U.S. and kicked-off with three shows at the Fort Knox Army facility. (USO Photo by Pat McDonogh)

Jaylee Sarrazin gets up close and personal with the Sesame Street characters on a sign at the entrance to Natcher Gym in Fort Knox, Kentucky, April 18, 2010. The Sesame Street/USO Experience for Military Families kicked-off the traveling tour's return to the U.S. with three shows at Fort Knox Army base. (USO Photo by Pat McDonogh)

Military families at Fort Knox Army base in Kentucky enjoy some quality time together while attending the Sesame Street/USO Experience for Military Families performance, April 18, 2010. (USO Photo by Pat McDonogh)

May Schedule
Aberdeen Proving Grounds – Maryland – May 1 – 2:00 p.m. and 4:30 p.m.
Fort Belvoir – Virginia – May 2 – 2:00 p.m. and 4:30 p.m.
JB Andrews – NAF Washington – Maryland – May 4 – 3:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.
MCB Quantico – Virginia – May 6 – 4:30 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.; May 7 – 4:30 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.
NAS Patuxent River – Maryland – May 9 – 10:00 a.m., 2:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m.
Langley AFB – Virginia – May 13 – 10:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.
Joint Expeditionary Base West Little Creek – Fort Story – Virginia – May 15 – 2:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m.; May 16 – 10:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m.
MCAS Cherry Point – North Carolina – May 19 – 3:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m.; May 20 – 3:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m.
MCB Camp Lejeune – North Carolina – May 22 – 10:00 a.m. 2:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m., May 23 – 1:00 p.m.
Shaw AFB – South Carolina – May 26 – 5:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.; May 27 – 5:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
Fort Jackson – South Carolina – May 28 – TBD