Joining Forces Rally with Sesame Street / USO Show

For the third consecutive year, the Sesame Street/USO Experience for Military Families – a free, traveling USO tour based on Sesame Workshop’s award winning Talk, Listen, Connect initiative – will re-deploy and land in 10 different countries. Officially announced by First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, Phase V of the tour will kick off at a Joining Forces Rally today in Columbus, Ohio. We are now officially live blogging, be sure to refresh your browser window to see all the updates!

4:50 PM ET:
The lights have dimmed! A video with First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden talking about their experiences meeting with military families and learning about their unique strengths and challeneges they face. “Together we can serve our heros as well as they served us.”

5:05 PM ET:
They’re currently showing some USO PSA’s – you can watch them at!

5:10 PM ET:
They just showed a great video on Sesame Workshop. 5:25 PM ET:
People are restless for the show to begin! Unveiling a brand new Sesame Street character designed exclusively for the USO tour, the show will also boast a new theme, a new set design and new music with familiar faces to connect with military kids of all ages. I can’t wait to see it!

5:35 PM ET:
Mayor Coleman is up on stage speaking! “I want to thank the USO, First Lady Michelle Obama, Dr. Jill Biden and of course Sesame Street! And this other guy… Nick Jonas!!!” I think all the adults’ ear drums have just shattered!

“I have a son … who was deployed to Iraq two times. We understand all the anxiety and stress families in this room face.” He’s speaking on all the great programs the city of Columbus, Ohio has for the military and veterans.

5:40 PM ET:
Udo Maroscher just sang the National Anthem, be sure to read about him in our post A Silver Star.

5:45 PM ET:
General Craig McKinley of the National Guard is now speaking. “I feel like Elmo’s helper tonight.” He’s talking about the great programs Ohio and the USO have for military and their families.

5:46 PM ET:
Sloan Gibson, President & CEO of the USO, and Gary Knell, President & CEO of Sesame Workshop, have taken the stage. Gibson is letting the children in the audience know how important they are!

Knell is speaking on the Sesame Street show and how it helps other children understand, “What it’s like being a kid in the military… What its like to be a kid who needs to move around, who has a mom or dad deployed in the military.”

5:50 PM ET:
Nick Jonas has taken the stage! He’s playing his guitar and singing and everyone is standing and clapping! On stage and singing with him is his friend Sonny Thompson.

5:58 PM ET:

Elmo has taken the stage!! Everyone is dancing in their seats, it’s the Elmo Slide! Step to the front, step to the back, and flap your arms!! Rosalita has now taken the stage with Elmo, and now Grover too! Lots of screams as Cookie Monster comes out, maybe more than Nick Jonas got!

6:05 PM ET:
We’re all singing along. First, the Sesame Street theme song, “Another Sunny Day,” which was written for Sesame Street Live.

6:08 PM ET:
Katie, the new character, is on the stage. She’s a military child and is talking about how her family has to move again. “It seems like whenever I feel settled in a place, I have to move again.” Elmo responds, “Friends can be friends, where ever they are!” They’re now singing about all the ways people can stay in touch, calling on the phone, writing a letter, sending pictures (“Or cookies!”) or chatting on the computer.

6:14 PM ET:
Rosalita is singing about her favorite Spanish word, “amigos.” It means friends!

6:16 PM ET:
Katie says she still feels better, but still feels blue. Grover and Cookie Monster burst into song about dancing away your blues. “Put on your dancing shoes, and say goodbye blues!”

6:19 PM ET:
Elmo is now singing about “things are always changing” and “change can make you happy!” If your family is always moving to new bases, it’s important to try to look at it as an opportunity for new friends! “Maybe moving won’t be so bad after all. It can be like an adventure!”

6:21 PM ET:
But it can be hard to be the new kid and make friends. Elmo recommends just taking it a step at a time and just say “hello.” Oh my, now Elmo, Grover, Cookie Monster, the whole gang have gone off stage and are saying hello to people!

6:26 PM ET:
Katie is now singing about being the best “me I can.” It’s about getting stronger and stronger, so you can achieve anything! Katie feels much better and ready to face this new chapter in her life knowing all her friends are there for her!

6:32 PM ET:
First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden have taken the stage! More cheers than Nick Jonas and Cookie Monster combined! “Michelle and I have come here today to say thank you to all the military and their families. Together we can join forces!!”

Michelle Obama: “We would not have this night without the USO and Sesame Street and our dear good friend, Nick Jonas. I also want to thank all the military kids and family in the audience tonight, you are the guests of honor!”

“This effort is about all of us joining forces as Americans. Jill & I believe that everyone can do something. Everyone can ask themsleves, ‘What can I do? How can I give back?’ If we all work together, if we all join together, we can serve our military families as well as they served us!”

6:40 PM ET:
First Lady Michelle Obama & Dr. Jill Biden are shaking hands with miltary families in the front of the auditorium!

The event is over, be sure to check out Joining Forces to learn more about this new initiative in support of military families. The live blogging of the Joining Forces Rally was brought to you today by the letters U, S and O!

A Silver Star

In the morning, Udo Maroscher woke up in his Columbus, Ohio, home. As he does every day, he looked on his wall at all the medals, including the Silver Star, that were awarded to his brother, who was killed in Vietnam in 1968.

In the evening, Maroscher, a retired Navy Lieutenant Junior Grade, will sing the National Anthem to open the Sesame Street/USO Experience for Military Families Tour at a community event in the very city he calls home. As a Wednesday evening rehearsal underscored beyond any doubt, Maroscher belts out the Star-Spangled Banner with even more authority than most, perhaps because he understands, through his honorable service and his brother’s ultimate sacrifice, what those precious lyrics mean.

“I try to sing our national anthem the right way,” Maroscher, 73, told the USO. “I fly my flag every day, and I’m so proud to be living here. Singing is the least that I can do.”

Maroscher, an ethnic German born in the famous Romanian province of Transylvania, recalled leaving his hometown “on a horse-drawn wagon through The Alps” to escape the Soviet Union’s iron fist. He became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1956, and like his brother, went on to graduate from Ohio State University and serve in the U.S. military. For his family, patriotism just comes naturally.

“I’m very supportive of military families,” Maroscher said. “As a naturalized citizen, I hope my patriotism shows.”

In January 1968, the Maroschers got news that all military families dread. While all they knew at first was that Maj. Albert Maroscher had been killed in action in a Saigon suburb, Udo and his family later learned the full scope of Albert’s heroism in Vietnam.

“With complete disregard for his personal safety, Major Maroscher moved through the hail of hostile fire along the street and deployed the personnel of the command group into covered positions from which they could place maximum effective fire on the insurgents,” the Silver Star medal citation reads. “The courageous leadership and the brilliant tactical knowledge displayed by Major Maroscher during the extremely perilous situation were greatly instrumental in limiting American casualties, and were a major factor in the successful outcome of the encounter.”

While the valor Albert displayed in the Army made Udo enormously proud, especially as he served in the Navy, his death was a crushing blow to the Maroscher family.

“It just about killed my mom,” Udo painfully recalled.

The vast majority of military families filling the the audience at Thursday afternoon’s Sesame Street-USO event, which will include appearances by First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, have thankfully not experienced the death of a loved one overseas. Yet many of these families have dealt with the stress of multiple deployments and frequent moves around the country and the world. While Thursday’s fun-filled Columbus event will also include special performances by Sesame Street characters and Nick Jonas, Maroscher hopes his Star-Spangled Banner will start it off on the right note, especially for all the kids in the audience.

“I’ve been singing since high school,” he said. “I’m just fortunate to have a God-given gift that I can share with others.”

When he gets back to his house tonight, Udo Maroscher will have played a part in Sesame Street and the USO’s efforts to lift the spirits of American service members and their families. And when he looks on his wall before going to bed, his brother’s Silver Star will be shining brighter than ever.

Come back today at 5:15 PM to see the USO live blog from the Sesame Street/USO Experience for Military Families Tour!