USO Gridiron Handshake Tour Set for Middle East

Gridiron-Handshake-TourFootball’s back in America with the end of the NFL lockout, but football is also alive and well in the Middle East for deployed servicemen and women.

The four-day, USO Gridiron Handshake Tour to the Middle East will feature two-time BCS National Champion head coach and current ESPN college football analyst Urban Meyer, former Notre Dame head coach and current ESPN and ABC analyst Bob Davie and former Pro Bowl defensive end Trace Armstrong. (The exact days and locations of the tour are withheld for security purposes.) The three men will share the ins-and-outs of America’s favorite game, sign autographs and pose for photos with troops.

The tour follows a recent visit from NFL coaches Ken Whisenhunt, Gary Kubiak, Jim Mora and Jim Mora Jr. to the Middle East and a tour by ex-NFLers Matt Millen, Anthony Munoz and Merril Hoge last March, all reaffirming the close relationship that exists between the NFL and the USO.

The USO tour is the first for all three men.

Celebrities Join Admiral Mike Mullen on His Final USO Summer Tour as Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff

Admiral Mike Mullen will wrap up his four-year appointment as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff by leading a star-studded, eclectic group of celebrities on his final USO entertainment tour overseas this summer.

Admiral Mullen will be joined by “The Daily Show” host Jon Stewart, Hall of Fame forward Karl Malone and illusionist David Blaine as they entertain deployed servicemen and women on a three-country, six-day tour. (Locations and dates of the tour stops remain unannounced for security reasons.)

Learn more at USO.org

Military Spouse: The Doobie Brothers Aren’t Just an Act

The Doobie Brothers

The Foster family is flanked by The Doobie Brothers. (Photo courtesy: Jodi Foster)

Back in May, the USO introduced you to Sgt. Mark Foster, his wife, Jodi, and their daughter, Kayla.  Emotional footage of the military family’s stirring November 2010 reunion on an NFL football field was included in The Doobie Brothers music video “Far From Home,” which premiered on USO.org. 

As The Doobie Brothers play a special USO concert in Washington, D.C., to mark the closing of Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Jodi Foster wants you to know that the legendary rock band isn’t just putting on an act when it comes to caring about military families.

“They’re not stars, they’re regular people,” Foster said.  “I’m so thankful for them.”

After being awarded the grand prize in the band’s Far From Home Project contest, which asked military families to submit emotional videos of their reunions, the Fosters, who live on the Kentucky-Tennessee border near Fort Campbell, were given an all-expense paid trip to see The Doobie Brothers perform in San Diego on June 21.

“An hour before the concert, we got to visit with the Doobie Brothers backstage,” Foster said.  “Pat Simmons, who is my favorite band member, stood there and talked to my daughter like he knew her for years.”

In addition to their 12-year-old girl, Sgt. Foster and his wife brought Jodi’s parents out to San Diego, a city the family had never visited.  Their sixth free ticket was given to a cousin they hadn’t seen in six years, as moving around from base-to-base and deploying overseas has made family vacations a rare occurrence for the Fosters.

“The whole thing about the contest was bringing family back together,” the Army wife said.  “If it hadn’t been for the Doobies putting on this contest, we wouldn’t have been able to see our cousin.”

When The Doobie Brothers played “Far From Home” at the San Diego County Fair, the Fosters became celebrities when fellow audience members recognized them in the video playing behind the band.

“It was fantastic and unbelievable,” Foster said.

In October, the Fosters will move to Fort Hood in Texas.  As they say goodbye to family and friends and prepare for another chapter of a long, stressful odyssey that has included five combat deployments, the family’s spirits have been lifted by the Doobie Brothers.

“It’s bittersweet leaving here, but we’re ready to move on to different things,” Foster said.  “I’m just so thankful for the opportunity to take a vacation to someplace we’ve never been before, see some national icons, and see family we hadn’t seen in a while.” – Tom Sileo

The USO <3’s Gary Sinise & the Lt. Dan Band

Gary Sinise and Lt. Dan Band do a sound check before the concert.

Emmy Award-winning actor Gary Sinise and his 12-member cover band, the Lt. Dan Band, have been traveling with the USO for more than seven years! Sinise and the Lt. Dan Band have enhanced the lives of approximately 150,000 troops stationed in the U.S., as well as in Japan, Korea, the Netherlands, Belgium, Afghanistan, the UK and Germany.

No stranger to supporting troops and their families, separately Sinise has traveled on USO tours to Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan, UAE, Germany and Italy as well as military bases throughout the states, personally uplifting the spirits of more than 58,700 service members.

“The band and I are always happy to hit the road with the USO.  We love performing for troops, because their sacrifices make it possible for the rest of us to live our lives.  They deserve so much more, and this is just one way for us to let them know we appreciate what they do,” says Gary Sinise. He took the time to answer the following questions for us:

What made you want to start touring for the USO?
I have veterans on both sides of my family and began working with veterans groups in the Chicago area in the early 80’s. And I’d played veterans in a few movies, of course, but it was really after 9/11 that I felt this need to get involved with our active duty services. So I called up the USO and joined a few handshake tours. It wasn’t long before I wanted to do more. In 2003, Kimo Williams and I started rehearsing the band and performing for the troops around Chicago. By 2004 we were taking our show overseas with the USO. And it only got bigger from there. We play 30-40 shows a year now and 75% of those shows are for troops, veterans and families. 17 USO shows this year alone.

What’s one of your fondest USO memories?
So many wonderful memories. I have been all over the world and have met many incredible people serving our country. One special trip would have to be my first tour to Iraq in 2003. On the plane from Kuwait to Baghdad, I met a former New York City firefighter named John Vigiano. His two sons, one NYPD and the other FDNY, were both killed on September 11th and he’d come along on the trip to show his support for the troops. He and I have been close friends ever since. Hearing his story, being on my first overseas tour and meeting the troops in a combat zone, confirmed to me that this was how I could help. I have been at it ever since.

If you could say one thing to all the men & women serving our country right now, what would it be?
Your service has not and will not be forgotten. We are all in your debt. And thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Gary Sinise performing with Lt. Dan Band

Gary Sinise and the Lt. Dan Band now have a feature-length documentary entitled, “Lt. Dan Band: For The Common Good,” showing some of their adventures and the amazing heroes they’ve have had the privilege to meet. The movie is streaming online at LtDanBandMovie.com through July. Each view costs just $3.99 and one out of every four dollars will be donated to The Gary Sinise Foundationwhich honors our nation’s defenders through programs and projects that serve our military, veterans, first responders and their families! The DVD will be available through Amazon in August.

Pringles Supports USO with “Taste of Home”

Pringles teamed up with the USO to provide more than 43,000 cans of chips to USO Centers around the world! The Pringles were produced in the Jackson, TN plant, where employees have many family members and friends serving in the military. “We are family at Pringles,” said Lisa Koester, Human Resources Manager. “When one of our own is concerned about their loved ones, we all are. Providing our troops a “Taste of Home” is just a small way to remind our troops that we are thinking about them and appreciate all they do,” she continued.

Pringles has also produced a video, “Pringles Supports Our Troops: Taste of Home,” which highlights the stories of the men and women who made the chips and the pride they had in producing the special cans. As one employee said, “To the country he is a soldier; to me, he is my son.” Watch the emotional documentary now:

Planking Hits the USO at Camp Buehring

SGT Schmidt

PLANKING HAS TAKEN OVER BY OUR TROOPS!!

The lying down game (also known as planking, or face downs) is an activity, popular in various parts of the world, consisting of lying face down in an unusual or incongruous location. The hands must touch the sides of the body, and having a photograph of the participant taken and posted on the Internet is an integral part of the game. Players compete to find the most unusual and original location in which to play. The location should also be as public as possible, and as many people as possible should be involved.

And the troops have brought it all over the globe, including Camp Buehring in Kuwait!

Now, Camp Buehring USO has started a Planking program. Troops who are interested can plank, in a safe place, we take the picture post it up and each week a winner gets announced!

This week’s winner: SGT Schmidt!

Here are the RULES When performing a Plank:

  1. You must always lay face down, ensuring your face remains expressionless for the duration of the Plank.
  2. Your legs must remain straight, and together with toes pointed.
  3. Your arms must be placed by your side, held straight and fingers pointed.
  4. You must make it known that you are Planking. Saying ‘I am Planking’ usually get this across. Sternly announcing it will ensure a good result.
  5. Your safety should always be considered. Properly thought through Planking procedures should always go to plan. Never put your self at undue risk.
  6. Every Plank that is captured must be named

DUTY MANAGER DUSTIN

Here are some of this week’s other entries! -Ingrid Santos, USO Camp Buehring