USO’s Roman Holiday Giveaway

From the week of 18 – 25 of February the USO Rome was proud to host the winners of the Roman Holiday Giveaway Program!

For one month all US active duty troops stationed in Europe were offered the opportunity to win a one week free vacation in Rome, to include lodging, air port shuttle, 3 tours, and a typical Roman dinner.

The lucky winning family of six from Ramstein Air Base, Germany, the Klawitters, were thrilled with the special opportunity provided by USO Rome, and thoroughly enjoyed a much needed family vacation in the Eternal City.

Sponsors for this incredible initiative were USO Rome vendors, B&B Residenza Risorgimento, Eternity Tours, The Voyager Shuttle Service, and Vito and Dina’s restaurant.

Caesars Foundation Supports Troops & Families with Donation to USO Las Vegas

Caesars Foundation’s executives presented a $100,000 check, yesterday, to USO Las Vegas during an afternoon ceremony inside McCarran International Airport.   The donation represents Caesars Foundation’s commitment to supporting America’s service members and their families.

“The donation stems from Caesars’ on-going commitment and support of the USO and the services it provides to military members and their families,” Jan Jones, Senior Vice President of Communications and Government Relations and Vice Chair of the Caesars Foundation said.  “This contribution will support the USO Las Vegas’ mission of providing a “home away from home” for our military members as they travel to and from Las Vegas.  USO Las Vegas has been a long time in coming to McCarran and we are pleased we are able to play a role in its formation.”

“The heartfelt commitment to support America’s troops shared by the Caesars Foundation and the Caesars Entertainment team is inspiring,” said Frank Thorp, USO’s Senior Vice President of Marketing and Communications.  “We are honored and grateful to build this partnership with Caesars, which is dedicated to making a meaningful difference in the lives of troops and their families. Caesars employees now have an avenue to show their support for our Armed Forces.”

The Caesars Foundation is a private foundation funded by a percentage of operating income from Caesars Entertainment’s resorts. The Foundation is the entity through which Caesars Entertainment funds programs and projects of $10,000 or more, as well as not-for-profit giving requirements imposed by certain operating jurisdictions. The Foundation’s objective is to strengthen organizations and programs in the communities where our employees and their families live and work.

The donated funds will support programs and services offered at the USO Las Vegas center, which opened in Nov. 2010. The USO Las Vegas is located on the mezzanine level, near the “A & B” security gate checkpoints in Terminal 1 of McCarran Airport.  It is open from 8:00 a.m. to midnight. For more information, visit www.usolv.org

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USO in the News: 02-22-11

Check out some of these great stories featuring the USO and its centers in the news!

  • Bobby Labonte Races For Win In Daytona 500 (The Auto Channel, 2-21-11) — 2000 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Bobby Labonte raced for the win down to the wire in the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway and took fourth-place with his No. 47 Kroger/USO Toyota after leading once for two laps in the season-opener.
  • Fort Drum Celebrates USO Birthday (IMCOM World News, 2-18-11) — Members and friends of the Fort Drum community stopped by the USO at lunchtime Feb. 4 to celebrate the organization’s 70th birthday and to honor an 87-year-old volunteer who has offered her time at New York-based USOs ever since President Franklin D. Roosevelt organized the group in 1941. “The USO still provides that home-away-from-home atmosphere, and a commitment to support our men and women in uniform and their Families,” said Karen Clark, USO Fort Drum director.
  • Pat Catan’s donates $5,210 to USO of Northern Ohio (The Morning Journal, 2-20-11) — Pat Catan’s Craft Centers donated $5,210 to the USO of Northern Ohio to help them with the cost of shipping supplies to troops overseas. The Pat Catan’s in Amherst had the highest amount of donations collected.
  • Lee Soldier among USO honorees (Army.mil, 2-17-11) —  Fort Lee staff sergeant was among the honorees at the USO of Hampton Roads and Central Virginia 2011 Gala Saturday in the Hampton Roads Convention Center, Hampton. Staff Sgt. Robert A. Walker from the 108th Quartermaster Company, 530th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 49th QM Group, was recognized for his “selfless dedication to the United States Army, unfailing support to his command and the military families of those serving the nation, (and for) his leadership that inspired youth in the local community,” according to a citation read at the gala.
  • Guitars sought for military personnel (Times Reporter, 2-18-11) — Warren Henry Music in Chagrin Falls and the USO of Northern Ohio have teamed up to help bring music to military personnel serving overseas.

Sharing the Love With Our Troops this Valentine’s Day

Be a valentine for our troops this holiday!

The USO has a couple of options for you to share your love with all of our wonderful service men and women:

  • Kids (adults are big kids, too) can download the Valentine’s Day coloring sheet brought to you by the creator of the “Fort Knox” comic strip. Post your coloring sheet to our Facebook page (http://facebook.com/theUSO), and we’ll post all of the submissions in a gallery on our website.
  • AOL has teamed up with the USO to provide as many as two million talk minutes to our troops this Valentine’s Day, so you can provide one minute of talk time for every virtual gift or recorded message that you send out to family and friends (at no cost to you). Share the love by going to www.aol.com/valentinegift, or record your special messages on www.aol.com/lovenotes. Your gift or message could connect troops from as far away as the Middle East to their loved ones back at home in the U.S.

Roy and Jeanette EnglerAlso, check out a sweet love story from the ’40s: “From the USO, With Love: Valentine’s Day Edition.”

If you have similar memories of people finding love through a USO connection, please email your story to usoshare @ uso.org. We love photos, too.

Happy (early) Valentine’s Day!

The USO at 70

Out of Many, One

On February 4, 1941, President Franklin Roosevelt accomplished what might not be possible today.  He asked 6 organizations who had provided morale services during World War I to unite their activities in one effort to help deal with the growing needs of the U.S. military.  Those groups (the Salvation Army, the YMCA, the YWCA, Travelers Aid, the Jewish Welfare Board, and National Catholic Community Service) formed the United Service Organizations – the USO.

From it’s founding as a private, not-for-profit organization, the USO has been lifting the spirits of troops and families around the world in times of war and peace.

Hope, and All That

Bob Hope’s contributions to troop entertainment are well-known.  His TV specials brought joy to troops and comfort to families back home.  Hope’s tireless efforts to bring the best performers to remote locations live on today.  Last year, the USO put on more than 700 events for troops and family members in the U.S., Europe, across the Pacific and, of course, Afghanistan, Iraq and Kuwait. Outstanding entertainers and celebrities from every field volunteer their time to visit troops, and let them know America stands behind them.

But, that’s about 11 percent of what the USO does.

A Bridge Back Home

Connecting troops and their loved ones has been a USO hallmark since World War II.  From letter-writing stations in the 1940s, to today’s USO satellite-based Private Telephone Network in today’s wars, troops and families have come to depend on the USO for finding ways for the American public and troops to connect.  In 2010, troops made 200,000 free phone calls home per month from USO centers in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Kuwait.  Because of the robust bandwidth the network brings us, troops can also communicate face-to-face.  We’ve lost track of the number of births witnessed by fathers thousands of miles away.

And, as before, it is through active engagement with other outstanding organizations that our best work is done.

Small, 45-rpm-sized “Letters on Records” were made at USO centers and mailed home during the early years.  Those were replaced by reel-to-reel and cassette tape messages later.  Today, through a partnership with the great folks at United Through Reading, troops can read a children’s book onto a DVD.  We then send the book and the video recording back home, so kids can “read along” with Mom or Dad as many times as they like.  Last year, 40,000 of those recordings were sent home to families.

The Most Married Military Since the Civil War?

Well, today’s military is very married.  Frequent deployments put a strain on families, especially children. We look out for them, too.

Motivational speaker Trevor Romain traveled to military bases around the world to help 6-to-12-year-olds deal with some of life’s challenges that can seem overwhelming to them.  Whether it’s being bullied or feeling like outsiders or dealing with divorce or a death in a family, Trevor helps give these youngsters and their parents tools to cope.

Our great friends at Sesame Street also came through for us.  For 3 years, we’ve worked with that organization to provide live character shows created especially for military families around the world.  (Did you know that Elmo’s father was deployed?  Elmo knows what it’s like to be lonely.) These outstanding programs have helped families deal with separation and with parents who come home with changes… or parents who don’t come home at all.  A new round of these performances kicks off this spring.

The Ultimate Sacrifice

And, we’re there for families who lose a loved one in service to their country.  USO staff and volunteers at our facility at Dover Air Force Base have met every dignified transfer of remains since 9/11.  We partnered with the base as they built the wonderful Families of the Fallen Center there, to give those families a place to gather themselves as they wait for their loved ones’ final journey home.

Through an active and productive partnership with our friends at the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors – TAPS – we help families of troops who died or were killed on active duty.  We also partnered with TAPS to offer children and spouses the chance to attend TAPS’ Good Grief Camp at Ft. Hood, Texas.  Here, families can find strength in meeting others who suffered the same kind of loss.

The USO and the Moyer Foundation will offer four camps for children whose parents were lost in combat.  Camp Erin, originally targeted at urban youth who lost a loved one, has expanded its focus to include military kids.  The camps will be held at Ft. Campbell, Ky; Ft. Bragg/Camp LeJeune, N.C.; Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, and Ft. Hood.  The participants can be themselves and learn to cope with pain – together.

Later this year, we will partner with Army One Source for our 2nd annual Caregivers’ Conference at Ft. Bragg.  The conference will bring together caregivers of wounded warriors to learn from world-class experts about compassion fatigue, suicide prevention, and depression.

And, Don’t Forget the Centers

The bulk of the USO’s day-to-day work happens at the 160 centers around the world.  These centers, located at U.S. airports and on military bases here and overseas, provide a safe place for troops to relax for a while.  We operate large centers in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Kuwait, and we’re opening small centers at remote forward operating bases in Afghanistan whenever the military asks us to.  Troops have free access to the Internet and they can watch movies or play video games.  Or, they can just sit and talk with friends.

Last year, USO centers had more than 8 million visits, including 1 million from family members.  Those centers offered more than 1,700 family events and programs in 2010.

Coming Soon – the Biggest USO Centers Anywhere

In just a few months construction will begin on the first of two brand new USO centers – the largest anywhere by a factor of about 8.  These 25,000-square-foot facilities will be built at the Ft. Belvoir, Virginia Community Hospital and at the new Walter Reed Medical Center being built in Bethesda, Maryland.  They will serve the needs of our wounded warriors and their families and provide them with places to go outside the hospital.

They will be open around the clock and will offer kitchens for home-cooked meals, a place for children to play, healing gardens, and the chance to watch first-run movies.  We will also make all of the courses offered by the American Management Association free to troops and families.

The centers will be part of wounded warriors’ transition from the military to the rest of their lives.  This effort will also require a partnership … with you and every citizen of every city and town across America.  We hope to help create a national community of care to help these families as they begin the next part of their journey to full and productive lives.

Forever Young

The USO is constantly refreshed and re-energized by our donors and tens of thousands of volunteers who make it possible for us to continue meeting the needs of troops and their families.  Every year brings new challenges and new opportunities for the USO to continue to be the go-to organization for troops and families and for other organizations to partner with to meet those new challenges.

It seems that we’ve only just begun.

 

Montgomery Gentry 2011 USO Tour


Grammy nominated country music artists Eddie Montgomery and Troy Gentry, who comprise Montgomery Gentry, have recently completed their third USO tour, bringing their own unique brand of beats and humor to the troops and their families based in Korea and Japan.

Service men and women at Camp Casey, Camp Humphreys, Camp Bonafis, Camp Mujuk, Kadena Air Base and Camp Foster enjoyed two acoustic performances and four full band shows while the duo got to extend their gratitude to the service men and women by posing for photos, signing autographs and offering up countless hugs of support.

Check out more of the photos at USO.org.