USO Tour Veteran Drew Brees Does It Again, NFL Champ Named SI’s Sportsman of the Year!

Super Bowl MVP and USO tour veteran Drew Brees can add one more accomplishment to his list of achievements, the Saint’s quarterback and Super Bowl XLIV’s “Most Valuable Player” was recently named Sports Illustrated’s 57th Sportsman of the Year. Whether he is leading the Saints to their first Super Bowl victory, helping with disaster relief in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, founding his own charitable organization or traveling around the globe on USO tours to lift the spirits of troops, the NFL superstar is always ready to give back. Touring with the USO since 2007, Brees has participated in 5 USO tours, touched the lives of more than 9,000 troops and their families, and visited more than 6 countries to include, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Iraq, Afghanistan, Japan, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates.

On behalf of the USO and troops stationed around the world, congratulations Drew!!!

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees on a USO Tour

Click here to see the full Sports Illustrated Article on Drew Brees being SI’s Sportsman of the Year

Bowden, Stallings set to coach troops, football greats in Connect to Home Bowl

Bowden, Stallings set to coach troops, football greats in Connect to Home Bowl
Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Military service men and women are used to being guided by accomplished leaders so for an upcoming flag football game, two legendary coaches will be pacing the sidelines.

Former Florida State head coach Bobby Bowden will face off against fellow National Championship winning coach Gene Stallings as they prepare their teams for the Connect to Home Bowl. The event will take place at an undisclosed military base in the Persian Gulf and will combine troops and football greats like Jim Kelly, LaVar Arrington, Thurman Thomas and Jevon Kearse. The highlights from the game will be shown during halftime of ESPN’s broadcast of the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl on ESPN Jan. 1 and

“It’s very exciting … because there couldn’t be a better cause,” Bowden told The Associated Press. “My belief in our military and our men that are over there, what they’re going through, that’s what means as much as anything to me.”

This is the second consecutive year that Tostitos and the USO are teaming up for this event and the participation by Bowden’s son, Terry, who coached one of the squads last year in Iraq, got him interested in taking part.

“He told me it was a great experience,” Bobby Bowden said. “He wouldn’t trade anything for it. The closest I have come to something like this, which really is not close, is they used to invite college coaches over to Europe, to Germany and England, to put on coaching clinics at some bases. But nothing like this.”

USO President Sloan Gibson is excited that the event is taking place again this year.

“We are thankful to have the Tostitos brand as a returning partner to help create this unique college football experience,” said Sloan Gibson, USO president. “Last year, we saw firsthand how meaningful this experience was for the men and women serving our country overseas. It’s thrilling to see this becoming a cherished tradition that will now bring joy to even more troops as we help them stay connected to their families back home during a time of year that matters most, the holidays.”

Other players set to take the field with the troops are Rodney Peete, Zach Thomas, Andre Reed, Antonio Freeman and Ron Dayne.

Tostitos Connect Home Bowl



USO Director of Volunteer Services Betsy McWhirt profiles the first quarter of 2011’s nominees for the Regional Volunteers of the Year.


Ellen Allen

When it comes to supporting our troops, Ellen Allen’s need for sleep goes out the window. As a matter of fact, when most people are still snug in their beds, Ellen is up to ensure deploying troops record a United Through Reading® DVD for their children or to supply the last smiling face they’ll see on U.S. soil for many months.

Ellen is always professional and calm and the amount of service she provides truly goes above and beyond the call of a volunteer. She has developed a relationship with a local restaurant which produces over 500 casseroles for “welcome home” and deployment dinners, netting the USO a substantial food budget savings. She recently organized a Phillies baseball game fundraiser that grossed $5,000 and initiated a blanket collection drive that resulted in 300 blankets for the center.

Over the past quarter, Ellen contributed over 100 hours towards planning the center’s gala. She spearheaded a collection of auction prizes and gifts for volunteers and honorees and volunteered for guest registration and auction check-outs. In short, if there is a shortfall of volunteers, Ellen is there to fill in. If no one is able to deliver casseroles, Ellen shows up with her car. If men and women in uniform need a picture taken, a cell phone to call home or simply a hot cup of coffee, Ellen is there.

And she finds time to do all of this while holding down a full time job as a third grade school teacher so it seems we can all learn a lot from Ellen Allen.


James Hourican

What’s that saying: That you never really know a man until you walk in his shoes? It says a lot for James Hourican, a volunteer for USO Vicenza that no distance is too far to serve our troops. James averages about 130 hours per month at the USO and frequently walks the three and a half-mile roundtrip from his home to the center located on base. More often than not, he works from opening to closing to generate a family atmosphere for USO visitors.

Although he was never asked, James stepped forward during a time when the center was short-staffed. Recognizing the need, he became a stabilizing presence, fielding questions from visitors, assisting with operations and supporting the efforts of the center manager.

As proof of his character, James is able to communicate sincerity and trust to visitors and staff alike. His ability to help visitors feel comfortable in the center and his understanding of center procedures allows the center manager to turn over many operations to him unsupervised.

James has a talent for engaging and entertaining USO Vicenza visitors because of his deep knowledge of movies, music, sports, worldly events and even board games. He always succeeds in uniting the entire group of visitors in the center with some form of discussion or game. The evidence of James’s impact is displayed in the faces of patrons who are always smiling and engaged.

During the summer, James worked the military’s “Summer Hire” program, while continuing to meet his goal of volunteering 30 hours a week for the center. With college classes in the fall, James is determined to maintain his dedication to the USO and it’s obvious that this is a man who will go far in life – no matter how he gets there.


Vidisha Kay

Forget New Orleans and Bourbon Street. Camp Humphreys is the place to be to get your personally designed Mardi Gras mask by USO volunteer Vidisha Kay. As a matter of fact, Vidisha helped create nearly 100 masks for the center’s Mardi Gras Ball in March 2010.

As one of Camp Humphreys’s most dependable volunteers, Vidisha’s talents and creativity have had an impact on a vast array of projects at the USO. She has “branded” several of the center’s ongoing programs such as USO Lunch Box and the Java Buzz Donut Shop, designed flyers to promote events and created banners for a local USO Lunch Box sponsor. She assisted the center manager with the Parody Music Video Awards and created a clip of music videos to use as a sample to advertise the parody contest. She also created a video with clips from different eras to show during the USO “Blast from the Past” decade party fundraiser.

One very significant contribution has been Vidisha’s leadership with the English Language Program (ELP). As an experienced teacher of English, Vidisha prepared special lesson plans to compensate for books that were too difficult for the children.

She then trained other ELP volunteers on how to use these plans to teach English to Korean elementary kids. Additionally, she used her previous teaching experience to better organize and structure the ELP program to make maximum use of a limited number of volunteers.

Vidisha is one of those rare individuals who sees what needs to get done and steps in to do it. As a perfectionist, she can be counted on to meet any challenge and deliver a high quality product. She is hardworking and can always be depended on to serve our troops with pride and care.


Catherine Reynolds

Tie-dyed fashions of the ‘70s have nothing on Captain Catherine Reynolds, who has elevated the craft to a mission of joy at Camp Buehring in Kuwait. As a volunteer at USO Camp Buehring, Catherine rose to a USO’s challenge: use a special skill or talent to create a unique project for fellow service men and women. Her response? She organized a series of workshops to teach men and women in uniform how to tie-dye and bring a little color and fun to their desert surroundings.

Since April 2010, Catherine has run tie-dye workshops almost every Saturday. It is an intensive process; before each workshop, she prepares the dye and pre-washes each t-shirt. She then conducts three workshops in a day that last from 0800 to 1700. Once the workshops have wrapped up, Catherine then helps with the USO front desk until 2200. On the days that follow, she spends hours finalizing the t-shirts, organizing them for pick up and mailing shirts to servicemen and women who have departed camp for Iraq.

And if that weren’t enough, on her non-tie dye days, she continues her active duty military service and teaches extension classes five days a week at Central Texas College.

The tie-dye workshops were intended to lift the spirits of her fellow service members, offer them fun, colorful attire and create gifts to send to family and friends back home. Each week her workshops are filled to capacity. Her services have even been requested by the military command, which stands as an example of her success with the project and contribution to the USO.

Catherine’s charisma, leadership and natural teaching abilities have been an inspiration to other Buehring volunteers who have offered to lead a bracelet workshop and run a Texas Hold ‘Em poker tournament. She is proof positive that enthusiasm is contagious and that our service members can truly make a difference.

USO Well Represented at NYC Marathon

USO Well Represented at NYC Marathon

By Joe Lee

On November 7, the USO joined forces with 10 marathon runners at the New York City Marathon to form TEAM USO, which raised nearly $25,000 for the troops. Each charity runner was responsible for raising $2,500 on their own.

Katie Brown, a New York City native, learned about the USO from a friend, and decided the organization was the perfect charity to support for her first marathon, and joined TEAM USO.

Michael Bozzelli was an active-duty Army soldier for more than six years. He also chose to run his first marathon to support the USO because he remembered the organization being there for him on each of his five deployments overseas.

“Whether it was by a care package or just in the airport passing through, I recall seeing the USO every single time I was out there,” said Bozzelli. “My grandmother has been volunteering for the USO at Fort Dix for the last … 100 years or so – so the organization’s been a big part of my life.”

TEAM USO was developed in response to volunteers looking for new ways to support the troops and their families. The USO provides team members entry to the race, training tips, and a singlet to wear on race-day. In exchange, team members commit to raising funds for vital programs and services for our men and women in uniform.

In an effort to increase team participation and fundraising efforts, the USO has expanded the charity athlete program in 2010 to give runners the option to run in any race around the world as a member of TEAM USO. Since taking on its new structure, TEAM USO runners have raised more than $130,000 for troops.

To learn how to run for TEAM USO, navigate to, to find tools and resources. The site can even help you personalize your own fundraising effort with a web page, photos, video, donation tracking software and your personal testimonial encouraging others to support the troops as well.

USO Salutes the Military’s Top Chefs

By Joe Lee

When USO Metropolitan Washington sends out the invitations to next year’s annual Salute to Military Chefs event, there will likely be a riot at the Pentagon to get a seat at the table to taste the delectable dishes created by the “top chefs” in the military.

The honorees joined in the kitchen at the Ritz-Carlton in Pentagon City to treat their guests to a delicious seven course meal, paired with wines provided by Brown-Forman Corporation and selected by winemaster Dennis Martin.

The November 17 event, made possible by a generous donation from BMC Software, was held to honor the Department of Defense’s top enlisted chefs and to announce the Enlisted Aide of the Year. This year, there were even some celebrity guests in attendance, including Top Chef contestant, Chef Kevin Gillespie and American Idol season seven finalist, Brooke White.

The “top chef” honorees are nominated by the offices of the President, the Vice President, the Secretary of Defense, and by the members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. This year’s honorees included:

• Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Alex Arevalo, nominated by the President of the United States.
• Marine Gunnery Sergeant Andrew Atkinson, nominated by the Commandant of the Marine Corps.
• Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Paul Brown, nominated by the Chief of Naval Operations.
• Air Force Technical Sergeant Erica Coleman, nominated by the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
• Navy Senior Chief Derrick Davenport, nominated by the Chief of the National Guard Bureau.
• Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Shawna Mayer, nominated by the Vice President of the United States.
• Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Timothy Sullivan, nominated by the Commandant of the Coast Guard.
• Marine Sergeant Anthony White, nominated by the Secretary of Defense.
• Army Staff Sergeant John-Joseph Williams, nominated by the Chief of Staff of the Army.

The enlisted aide’s duties include maintaining the interior and exterior of the general or flag officer’s quarters, keeping their uniforms in order, planning and assisting with the officer’s scheduling, and even acting as their private security officer. But there is only one thing more meticulously prepared than an officer’s uniform or his lawn, and that’s dinner. That is why, first and foremost, every “enlisted aide” to Pentagon brass must be a chef extraordinaire.

This year’s Enlisted Aide of the Year was Navy Senior Chief Wes Tavares, the senior enlisted aide to the 29th Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Gary Roughead.

The Enlisted Aide of the Year nominees included:

• Army Sergeant First Class Sherra Jackson.
• Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Stephen Bishop.
• Air Force Master Sergeant Emile Bradley.
• Marine Corps Staff Sergeant Scott Zabel.
• Navy Senior Chief Wes Tavares.