This Week’s Snag Film: Disco and Atomic War

Snag Film’s SummerFest continues with the world premiere of Disco and Atomic War, which asks the question: Did disco cause the collapse of the Soviet Union?

According to this lighthearted and informative film, nighttime soap operas and disco-dancing footage had as much to do with the Soviet’s demise as did any political movement.

Disco and Atomic War tells the story of a strange kind of information war, where a totalitarian regime stands face to face with the heroes of popular culture. Despite a ban on western media, from the 1950s onward many Estonias were able to easily pick up Finnish radio and television broadcasts from across the border with homemade antennas. Western popular culture had an incomparable role shaping Soviet children’s worldviews in those days—in ways that now seem slightly odd. Finnish television was a window to the world of capitalism’s pleasures that the authorities could not block.

Blending dramatic reconstructions with talking heads and archival footage, the film includes some brilliant scenes such as, for instance, the filmmaker’s rural cousin Urve reading the latest “Dallas” plot developments to the entire town.

Remember, you can watch this documentary and many more for FREE any time you like at Snag Films!  Check out the USO Theater widget on the homepage, and learn about the non-profits and filmmakers supported by these documentaries…

Volunteer of the Year – Fourth Quarter Nominees

To recognize the outstanding contributions of our volunteers, USO centers from our four operating regions—Stateside, Europe, Southwest Asia, and the Pacific—nominate a volunteer for “Volunteer of the Quarter” four times a year. This individual has gone above and beyond in supporting our troops and demonstrating their commitment to the USO mission. From this group of outstanding volunteers a “Volunteer of the Year” is then selected for each region, and, from these nominees comes the USO Volunteer of the Year is selected and honored at our annual gala.

Here are the 4th Quarter Volunteer Nominees!

May Grace Enjambre – Europe USO Volunteer of the Quarter

As a single service member living far from her family in the Philippines, May Grace Enjambre knows first hand how difficult it is to be in a new place, separated from loved ones. When she first arrived at her duty station in Naples, it was a bit tough. But like so many of the remarkable men and women serving our country, May decided to use her time to help other troops and their families by volunteering with USO Naples.

May is the center’s Publicity Coordinator, working with the Armed Forces Network and the local public affairs office to inform the local Naval Support Activities center about the USO and its programs.  Despite working two jobs, May gives up her weekends to volunteer with the USO. She’s volunteered more than 600 hours assisting over 4,000 in-transit passengers and 1,000 families during USO events. With young people like May serving in our armed forces, we can rest easier knowing that we are in trusted hands.

David Tennent – United States USO Volunteer of the Year

Dave Tennent is one of USO Puget Sound’s superstar volunteers. Fondly known as “Doughnut Dave,” he established procedures to implement a partnership with the Top Pot Doughnut shop and now spends five nights a week picking up and delivering nearly 300 doughnuts to troops and their families.

Dave serves as the lead volunteer for three weekly shifts, averaging nearly 100 volunteer hours per month. His efforts are critical in helping the USO build relationships with outside organizations like the Boeing Blue Bills, the Kirkland Kiwanians and the Kirkland Interfaith Transitions in Housing Group. He’s urged these groups to volunteer and attend USO sponsored events, giving them a chance to show their commitment to our nation’s service members.  Dave’s efforts and positive attitude ensure that the center is able to serve the troops and their families, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

SSgt. Shaina Newton – Southwest Asia USO Volunteer of the Quarter

Staff Sergeant Shaina Newton is a remarkable service member who truly enjoys supporting fellow troops. When she’s not working 12-hour shifts at her regular duty station, she’s at USO Baghdad, where she averages 64 hours per month, making sure the USO center feels like a “home away from home.”

Shaina is constantly coming up with new initiatives to help lift the spirits of her comrades.  She created a revised volunteer database that maps out daily volunteer and visitor trends. This system helps the center predict needs and determine volunteer recruitment goals.  Not only does she bring her wonderful creativity and good nature to our operations, but she has saved USO Baghdad countless hours in tracking and managing volunteers. Shaina Newton’s contributions to the USO are a testament to her exceptional character and we applaud her service to the center and to our nation.

Tracy Johnson – Pacific Region USO Volunteer of the Quarter

Tracy Johnson is a proud Navy submariner spouse, dedicated mother and USO Guam volunteer. Her smile, hearty laughter, and deep commitment to service make her indispensable to our military and their families. Tracy shows her commitment to our nation’s troops and USO Guam in many ways. When the Sesame Street tour came to Guam, Tracy ensured the event was a success, understanding how important it was for the military children on base.

She also helped sell more than $1,400 in raffle tickets for the USO Guam Gala and readily steps up to staff events like the Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners, Pier Side Flapjack Breakfasts and the furniture auction.  With a heart as big as Texas, and the skills to make things happen, Tracy’s efforts help USO Guam exceed the expectations of guests, and provide the highest level of excellence in service and visitor satisfaction.

Striking Back at PTSD

by Kelly Crigger

Soldiers are warriors who don’t always need to be coddled, yet many Post Traumatic Stress Disorder treatment facilities only offer a soft approach to rehabilitation based on group therapy and talking about their experiences. What many of them need is the complete opposite – a tough physical challenge that demands they rekindle their warrior spirit and rise up to meet a challenge.

Sergeant Todd Vance after a Muay Thai workout. (Photo courtesy of Kelly Crigger)

Sergeant Todd Vance has been there. A former Stryker Infantryman, Vance returned from Iraq and had a hard time forgetting about the distasteful moments of his more than 200 combat missions. After rehabilitating himself, he took up the burden of helping others and started a program for veterans based on something he knew a lot about – kickboxing. In particular, Vance is experienced in Muay Thai kickboxing, a physically exhaustive form of fighting that requires mental acuity to remember the combinations and wears the participants out through a grueling training regimen.

“I started the program for a few different reasons,” Vance says. I work at the Veterans Administration, but love to teach martial arts so I wanted to combine the two. I thought to myself, ‘no one has done this yet and martial arts is precisely what saved me, so why couldn’t it help all the other guys getting back?’”

Vance first needed a facility to hold his weekly classes and approached the owners of the Undisputed Boxing Gym in San Diego where he trains, who were more than happy to help. “The class is at an off peak hour so we have the full facilities to ourselves,” Vance says. “The veterans in my class don’t have to pay any fees for my class and get an extreme discount if they want to become full members.”

Vance then got the word out around town by making flyers that he distributed on local college campuses and convinced the Veterans Administration of San Diego to send it out to their email lists. Instantly he had five students and tangible results.

“It gives the guys a reason to get in shape, an education in physical fitness and martial arts, and gives them a safe place to go to blow off steam with people like them,” Vance says. “Too many vets turn to alcohol to cope with the things they did and saw, so this gives them something else.”

Vance’s program, called POW (Pugilistic Offensive Warrior), is similar to the multi-faceted approach of Andrea Lucie’s Marine Corps program at Camp Lejeune. Lucie combines yoga, fitness, and Mixed Martial Arts to help Marines cope with PTSD and has been a leading advocate for taking a harder approach to PTSD.

“Marines don’t want to sit around talking about their feelings,” says Captain Lee Stuckey, one of Lucie’s former students. “They joined to be warriors, so they need something to hit and someone to treat them like men. Also MMA workouts are really tough, so they help us sleep. Without the workouts I have to take medication, which I hate.”

Back in San Diego, Vance’s group is small, but that just affords them focused attention with the same benefits as Lucie’s group on the east coast. It’s Vance’s way of giving back to the troops and helping them find a way through their problems using the same solutions that worked on him.

“One of the students came up to me and thanked me for putting all the effort into the program and doing this,” Vance says. “He said it’s what gets him through the week and he looks forward to it every time. That was very rewarding and inspired me to keep pushing forward.”

Kelly Crigger is a Lieutenant Colonel stationed in Washington, D.C., the author of Title Shot: Into the Shark Tank of Mixed Martial Arts, and a contributor to The Rhino Den. The opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of Kelly Crigger and do not necessarily reflect those of the USO.

Get Your Free Joey+Rory Download!

Country music duo Joey+Rory recently completed their first USO tour, with a special 4th of July military concert in Guantanamo Bay.  And today we have a special treat for all of their fans:

A free download of Joey+Rory’s new song “This Song is For You,” featuring Zac Brown Band!

Getting the song is easy: just click on the link above or either of the images, share some quick, basic info and their latest tune it’s all yours!

We love our country music supporters and we know you love them back.  Here’s sending a huge thanks to Joey + Rory and Zac Brown Band for the free download.  Let us know what you think!

Be sure to become a fan of Joey+Rory and Zac Brown Band on Facebook, and follow Joey+Rory and Zac Brown Band on Twitter…

You Helped Us Provide 100,000 Phone Calls…Can We Do More?

This is probably the ONLY time you'll see the phone bank at USO Basra this quiet - when the center's closed for cleaning! (USO photo from USO Basra's Facebook page)

We knew our USO family was the best!  Last week we told you how Billy Ray Cyrus showed his support for Operation Phone Home, and how YOU could show support, too.  We challenged you to help provide 100,000 call for troops to their loves ones before July 31, and…

Guess what?  We blew right past our goal!  We heard your response loud and clear, so we’re upping our goal to 250,000 calls for Troops and the deadline of July 31 is fast approaching!

When you donate $15 today, you will provide our brave men and women with 45 calls home.  That’s three calls for every dollar donated!  We couldn’t do what we do without your support.  Know that we’ll be there providing free phones calls and all of the other great programs and services you’ll find at the USO…Until Every One Comes Home.

Brother Clyde Brings Bliss to El Paso

Billy Ray Cyrus proudly displayed his key to Fort Bliss to thousands of military families in attendance at his USO concert with new band Brother Clyde, July 25, 2010. (USO Photo by Lencho Guerra)

“Any chance I get to break away and express my thanks to our troops and their families – whether it be through a song, a visit or a trip overseas, I am there. And my trip to Fort Bliss is no different.  I am thrilled to be in El Paso and honored to be performing before our nation’s true heroes.” -Billy Ray Cyrus

Multi-platinum recording artist Billy Ray Cyrus and his rock n’ roll revival BROTHER CLYDE brought their show to thousands of soldiers and military families at Fort Bliss with a 75 minute USO concert on July 25.  During their time on post, Cyrus and fellow members of BROTHER CLYDE mingled with troops and Cyrus also performed some of his most memorable hits like “Achy Breaky Heart” and “Some Gave All.”

This trip marks the second USO tour for Cryus, who visited and entertained more than 7,000 troops stationed in Afghanistan, Iraq and Germany in December 2009; this was first the USO appearance for BROTHER CLYDE.  An avid supporter of America’s armed forces, Cyrus and his daughter, Miley, invited dozens of military families to a studio taping of Disney Channel’s hit show “Hannah Montana.”  They then surprised each guest with an invitation to take part in filming a concert scene for the show and a greeting to their loved ones stationed abroad.  Cyrus’ latest project, the rock n’ roll revival known as BROTHER CLYDE, will release their self-titled debut CD in August.

Check out the photo essay below!

Brother Clyde drummer Samatha Maloney plays to a crowd of military families on Fort Bliss as part of the first USO concert for the band, July 25, 2010. (USO Photo by Lencho Guerra)

Brother Clyde bass player Daniel Knight performs with USO tour veteran and band mate Billy Ray Cyrus, July 25, 2010. (USO Photo by Lencho Guerra)

A crowd of more than 2,000 military families turn out for the Brother Clyde USO concert featuring Billy Ray Cyrus at Fort Bliss, July 25, 2010. (USO Photo by Lencho Guerra)

A young fan keeps the beat as she looks on during the USO concert featuring Billy Ray Cyrus and Brother Clyde at Fort Bliss, July 25, 2010. (USO Photo by Lencho Guerra)