Spirits Soar Upon Arrival of Angelina Jolie at Ramstein Air Base

Angelina Jolie and company at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center.

Angelina Jolie, (center, in black), and company at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center. (Photo credit: Phil Jones, LRMC Public Affairs)

Megawatt moviestar Angelina Jolie took time out to visit Ramstein Air Base and Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany and talk with wounded warriors and stationed service men and women. Jolie also popped in on a departing Med Evac aircraft loaded with wounded soldiers that was set to depart for Andrews Air Force Base.

See how her visit affected some of those homebound troops in this video.

The Academy Award-winning Jolie is famous for her roles in films like “Girl, Interrupted,” “Mr. and Mrs. Smith,” “Salt” and the Lara Croft films, but she is also known the world over as an active advocate of humanitarian efforts. Jolie was recently in Cannes, France, to promote her voice-over work in the upcoming sequel to the animated movie “Kung Fu Panda” and was also informed that her directorial debut, “In the Land of Blood and Honey,” has secured distribution in the United States and will be in theaters this December. – Christian Pelusi, USO

Army Ready to Compete in Warrior Games

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Captain Lisa Merwin, Retired Sergeant Robbie Gaupp, and Sergeant 1st Class Landon Ranker, all part of the Army team competing in the second annual Warrior Games took a few minutes out of their busy schedule to discuss their upcoming participation with with us.

In 2010, Army won the medal count, but the Marines the overall competition, so we were curious as to how they felt going in this year.

“We look a lot better than last year because of the [increased] prep time we’ve had,” said Ranker, who will be competing in the Ultimate Champion Competition, which will include the shot put, air rifle shooting, 100-meter sprint, 50-meter freestyle, and 30-kilometer cycling – wow!

Merwin, who is competing in the women’s 10-kilometer cycling and 50-meter freestyle events, noted that the team was ready, saying, “The enthusiasm of the athletes is very high.”

Gaupp agreed he was excited for his events: the 800-meter spring, 100- and 200-meter dashes, four by 100-meter relay and seated volleyball.

Having been at the U.S. Olympic Training Center for the past week, the athletes have only a few hours left to prepare. “It’s time to start sizing up the competition,” Ranker said. Let the games begin! – Vyque White, USO

Warrior Games Opening Ceremony Honors Athletes

The Air Force Team participates in the opening ceremonies of the 2nd Annual Warrior Games on May 16, 2011. (USO photo by Samantha L. Quigley)

More than 300 men, women, and children lined the U.S. Olympic Training Center’s Olympic Path on May 16, 2011 to honor 220 warrior athletes.

Representing the Army, Marines, Navy / Coast Guard, Air Force and Special Operations, each team proudly came down the path as the 4th Infantry Division’s Military Band played and the crowd cheered.

Then the torch relay began, with representatives from each team passing the torch down the path. The journey began with starting with Army Private First Class Joshua Bullis, a triple amputee injured in Afghanistan who will be competing in the 10 meter air rifle and 10 meter air pistol event. He handed off to Marine Corporal Travis Greene. Greene, a double amputee, will be competing in sitting volleyball, wheelchair basketball and more. Carrying the torch for the Navy team was Petty Officer 1st Class Steve Lipscomb. Currently undergoing chemotherapy, Lipscomb is the first ever reserve component sailor to be assigned to the Blue Angels. Next was retired Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Mike Bell, who previously competed in the inaugural Warrior Games last year. For the Air Force it was Major Gwendolyn Sheppard, who was injured in combat in Iraq. Finally, Captain Ivan Castro took the torch for the Special Operations team. Active duty and visually impaired due to a mortar attack in Iraq, he’s an avid runner and cyclist.

Last but certainly not least, the honorary torchbearer of the evening was Army Staff Sergeant Salvatore Giunta.

Giunta is the first living Medal of Honor recipient since the Vietnam War. Taking the final leg, he ran up several flights of stairs to light the Warrior Games cauldron.

“It’s an honor to have you here at our facility,” said Charlie Huebner, USOC Chief of Paralympics and Opening Ceremonies host. “The Paralympic movement started here, with injured service members returning from World War II, participating in sports as part of their physical activity in the rehabilitation and reconditioning of young men and women. So this, in a sense, home.”

“Perseverance.  It’s defined as the continued effort to do or achieve something despite difficulties, failure or opposition. And as I stand her today and look at this crowd, I think ‘Wow. This is what perseverance looks like to me,’” added Mark Goulart, principal at Deloitte, the Warrior Games title sponsor. “The fact that you are here at the Warrior Games proves that you have an extraordinary ability to see. Each of you looked into the future and saw yourself serving your country. And you saw that vision come true. Then, once injured, you looked in the future again and saw yourself recovering and competing in sport. And so here you are, seeing that vision come true.”

The emotional and moving remarks continued as USO President Sloan Gibson took the stage.

“To all of you athletes, you know that the USO’s mission is to lift the spirits of the troops and their families. And we work really hard to try to help do things like this to lift your spirits. We show up and you wind up lifting ours.”

No one can walk away from these events not feeling inspired by the triumph of human spirit. Let the games begin! – Vyque White

See more images of the ceremonies here.