It’s a Party When Congress and the USO Get Together to Stuff Care Packages for Troops!

Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.), (left), and USO volunteer Nancy Lee Fiscus grab items to include in USO care packages. (USO photo by Mike Theiler)

Yesterday, members of Congress led Hill staffers, donors, military leadership and other volunteers in stuffing more than 2,000 USO care packages for troops deploying to Afghanistan, Iraq and other overseas locations.

Volunteers move down rows of items as they stuff the packages with care. USO photo by Mike Theiler

Care packages provide items requested by service members, including prepaid international phone cards, toiletry kits with shampoo, conditioner, toothbrush and toothpaste and shaving kits, sunscreen, snacks, refreshments and other entertainment items. Each care package also contains a special message of support from the donor.

Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-Texas), (right), and his wife Carolina stuff peanuts and bandages in care packages. USO photo by Mike Theiler

Members of the USO Congressional Caucus in attendance included Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-Texas), Rep. Chet Edwards (D-Texas), Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.): Rep.Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) and Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.). Also present were Annie McChrystal, wife of Gen. Stanley McChrystal, Commander, International Security Assistance Force/Commander, U.S. Forces Afghanistan; Ed Reilly, American Management Association president and chairman of the USO Board of Governors; and senior military leadership and their spouses attended this event.

Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.), (center), makes remarks on the importance of Operation Care Package as Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.), (left) and USO Board Chairman Ed Reilly listen. USO photo by Mike Theiler

Military spouses (left to right) Dale Rowe (wife of Army Maj. Gen. Richard J. Rowe), Sandee Cartwright (wife of USMC Gen, James E. Cartwright) and Annie McChrystal (wife of Army Gen Stanley A. McChrystal) show off some completed care packages. USO photo by Mike Theiler

Rep. Sam Farr (D-Calif.) and California National Guard Adjutant Brig. Gen. Mary J. Knight stuffed two bags at a time before handing them to USO volunteers to ship overseas. USO photo by Mike Theiler

Coaches Rich Ellerson, Chip Kelly, Tim Murphy and Ron Zook Lift Spirits on First-Ever USO/Morale Entertainment Tour

Four of today's top college football coaches pose for a group photo outside the USO Warrior Center at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany. The coaches are in the region as part of a nine-day, six-country USO/Morale Entertainment tour. (Morale Entertainment Photo by Blake Belcher)

“It’s an honor for me to have the opportunity to spend some time with our young men and women serving overseas, who get up every day and fight for the rights of others. The men and women of our U.S. Armed Forces embody the true spirit of heroism.” -Rich Ellerson, West Point

The USO, in conjunction with Morale Entertainment, recently deployed four top college football coaches overseas as part of a nine-day USO/Armed Forces Entertainment tour to Germany and South West Asia. Making the 15-hour journey to boost morale and bring a touch of home to troops were West Point head coach Rich Ellerson, University of Oregon head coach Chip Kelly, Harvard University head coach Tim Murphy, and University of Illinois head coach Ron Zook.

As Tim Murphy explained, “This was not something I had to think about and I committed to it on the spot. We have two recent Harvard Football players who are at Camp Pendelton (Calif.) as Marine Corp offices awaiting deployment to Afghanistan and it’s the least I can do to show my spport for them and all the brave men and women of our armed forces.”

This is the first USO tour for each coach. During the trip, the group is scheduled to visit six countries in nine days to sign autographs and take photos.  They’ll also be participating in panel discussions and leading flag football competitions with troops. Among some of the places visited so far are, McConnell Air Force Base and the USO Warrior Center at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center.

We’d like to thank American Airlines, which provided all domestic and international travel support for each tour participant as part of its office of Veterans and Military Initiatives; and Under Armour (UA), for donating athletic apparel to service members throughout the tour. And, as part of Under Armour’s Freedom initiative, the coaches will guide troops through an official UA Football Combine aboard an aircraft carrier and lead U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force in the 3rd consecutive “UA Dust Bowl” flag football game!

And while the Troops get a chance to kick back with some of today’s best coaches, it’s the coaches themselves who are humbled to take part in their first tour:
“To say that my USO tour has had an impact on me would be an understatement,” said Ron Zook of University of Illinois. “There is something profound about following in the footsteps of our troops and taking part in the activities that shape their everyday lives. I only wish everyone had this opportunity.”

University of Oregon head coach Chip Kelly takes time out to sign autographs for some of his youngest fans as part of his week-long USO/Morale Entertainment tour abroad. This is Murphy's first overseas tour to visit U.S. troops. (Morale Entertainment photo by Blake Belcher)

Harvard University head coach Tim Murphy takes time out to chat with a Wounded Warrior Project representative at the USO Warrior Center at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany. In the region to boost troop morale and talk football, Murphy, along with three other college coaches, are scheduled to visit six countries in nine days as part of their first USO/Morale Entertainment tour. (Morale Entertainment Photo by Blake Belcher)

University of Illinois head coach Ron Zook takes time out to sign autographs as part of his week-long USO/Morale Entertainment tour abroad. This is Murphy's first overseas tour to visit U.S. troops. (Morale Entertainment photo by Blake Belcher)

Four of today's top college football coaches mingle with troops during a recent visit to the USO Warrior Center at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany. The coaches are in the region as part of a nine-day, six-country USO/Morale Entertainment tour. (Morale Entertainment Photo by Blake Belcher)

USO Opens Its First Center in Kansas!

(L-R) Col. Brown, Fort Riley Garrison commander; Sloan Gibson, USO president & CEO; April Blackmon, USO Fort Riley director; Mrs. Carol Brooks, wife of Maj. Gen. Vincent Brooks, commanding general of the 1st Infantry Division & Fort Riley; David McIntyre, President & CEO of TriWest Healthcare Alliance; and Brig. Gen. David Petersen, 1st Inf. Div. and Fort Riley deputy commanding general cut the ribbon at the grand opening on USO Fort Riley on May 25, 2010. (USO Photo by Virginia Hagin)

“USO Fort Riley is a home away from home for our service members and families – a place for them to unwind and feel comfortable. We are extremely grateful for the support of our partners and the Fort Riley community, as well as the dedication of our wonderful volunteers.” – April Blackmon, Center Director at USO Fort Riley.

This week, we opened our first center in Kansas – USO Fort Riley – to serve the more than 23,000 troops and family members stationed on one of the largest U.S. Army installations in the United States. The new center will be open 365 days a year to provide a wide variety of programs for the Fort Riley military community.

With 7,000 square feet of room, this center features a computer lab with nine computer stations and WiFi connectivity; a video gaming area with Xbox®, Sony Playstation 3, and Nintendo® Wii™ consoles; a library and family room; pool, air hockey, foosball, shuffleboard, poker and chess tables; a movie theater with a large DVD and Blu-ray library; nine televisions with DirecTV; a United Through Reading® recording area, outdoor patio, snack bar and fire place lounges.

We’d like to thank the Department of Defense for their cooperation in opening the center, and the generosity of the TriWest Healthcare Alliance, Mark Gelfand, United Renovations and Harbor Group, and donations from the public that make it all possible.  David J. McIntyre, Jr., President and CEO of TriWest Healthcare Alliance & USO Board Member has this to say: “The USO Center offers Fort Riley-based men and women a place to relax, have fun and meet friends. TriWest is proud to contribute to the construction of this new center as a thank you to Service members and their families who sacrifice so much in defense of our nation.”

We say thank you, too and can’t wait to hear the great stories from USO Fort Riley.  Enjoy more photos below!

Col. Brown, Fort Riley Garrison commander, greets center visitors at the standing-room-only USO Fort Riley grand opening on May 25, 2010. (USO Photo by Virginia Hagin)

USO Fort Riley opened to more than 100 guests on May 25, 2010, providing a "home away from home" to service members and their families. (USO Photo by Virginia Hagin)

USO Fort Riley features a computer lab with WiFi connectivity, a video gaming area, library & family rooms, game tables, movie theater, televisions, a United Through Reading® recording area, patio, snack bar and lounges. (USO Photo by Virginia Hagin)

Service members enjoy the gaming area at the new USO Fort Riley center, the first USO center in Kansas, during a grand opening celebration on May 25, 2010. (USO Photo by Virginia Hagin)

USO Fort Riley volunteers help serve dozens of troops outside of the USO Mobile Canteen during the grand opening of USO Fort Riley on May 25, 2010. (USO Photo by Virginia Hagin)