USO Holiday Boxes Providing Spooky Fun Today

Launched this year, the USO Holiday Boxes Program aims to provide some festive cheer to deployed troops overseas. We currently have four themes: Winter Time,  Valentine’s Day / Football, Memorial Day / Summer / Fourth of July and Halloween / Thanksgiving!

Halloween fun at USO Kandahar

The Halloween / Thanksgiving boxes are being put to use as we speak and included:

  • Candy corn
  • Paper masks
  • Funkins and carving tools
  • Pumpkin lights, balloons and Halloween decorations
  • Thanksgiving decorations
  • Holiday-scented air freshener
  • Scary movies

“Though they’re just small holiday items that we take for granted having here stateside, they really do help troops deployed overseas feel a bit more connected and not forgotten,” said Holiday Box program manager Kerri Needle Ray. “Our goal is to let our troops know they’re on our minds during the holiday seasons and to help them have a little fun at the same time.”

Time to get festive!

The USO wishes our service men and women, their families, and everyone a happy and safe Halloween!

USO Europe Service Salute

The USO hosted their 19th Annual USO Europe Service Salute this month on Ramstein Air Base in Germany. Twelve outstanding junior enlisted military personnel, representing the U.S. and German armed forces, were recognized for their outstanding military and community achievements. Senior American and German military, diplomatic, political and corporate leaders were present at the event to salute to the “best of the best.”

The USO Europe Honorees. Photo by Jamie Goloyugo

The USO Europe Service Salute also celebrates and reinforces the strong partnership between the armed forces of the United States and Germany. Herr Professor Dr. Hans-Jürgen Seimetz represented the event’s German patron, Rheinland Pfalz Minister President Kurt Beck. The event’s U.S. patron, Ambassador to Germany Philip D. Murphy, was represented by Frankfurt Consul General Edward A. Alford. General Mark Welsh, Commander Africa Command and Generalleutnant Rainer Korff, Kommandierender General Multinationales Korps Nord-Ost were also participants in the awards ceremony.

The EUCOM Color Guard. Photo by Jamie Goloyugo

The evening featured a reception followed by dinner and culminated in a formal awards presentation to recognize the twelve distinguished honorees. The U.S. Air Force’s Tops In Blue provided entertainment.

The 19th Annual USO Europe Service Salute was made possible through the generous sponsorship of numerous U.S. and German companies. Platinum Sponsors include: TKS Telepost Kabel-Service Kaiserslautern GmbH & Co. KG, United Airlines and the Wounded Warrior Project. Diamond Sponsors include Deutsche Lufthansa AG, P&A GmbH, P & G and Stars & Stripes.

Last Chance for a USO Jersey!

The USO’s Support Our Troops: Home or Away jersey-style t-shirt is a great way for you to demonstrate your unyielding support for our troops. But, you only have 24 hours to order one. This is the final time we’ll offer this shirt. So, this is literally your last chance to act.

Support Our Troops: Home or Away with a donation of $25 or more today, and get your USO t-shirt.

From free phone calls that allow troops to hear the voices of their loved ones and friends to USO2GO shipments that provide a touch of home no matter where our troops are stationed, the USO makes sure these heroic men and women know that the people back home are thinking of them.

Joining this campaign to give back to our troops means you’re a part of a very special group of Americans who recognize our troops’ selfless dedication to our nation — and have the honor to put our words of thanks into action.

Thank you for being there for our troops — home or away. – Kelli Seely, USO Chief Development Officer

A Night of Honor, A Night of Love

The happy couple!

Last week Garett Brada told his dad, “Today’s the day.”

Brada wasn’t referring to the prestigious honors that would be bestowed to him later that evening by the U.S. and European military. What occupied Brada’s mind was how he would propose to his longtime girlfriend, Erica Saiz, turning a night set aside to honor him into an evening to celebrate his love for her.

Brada and Saiz were guests at the USO’s annual tradition, the All Services Honoree Dinner. Brada, a Machinery Technician Third Class for the U.S. Coast Guard, was among 11 other honorees, one from each branch of the service for the U.S. Military as well as the European Military Forces and U.S. Africa Command. The men and women were being honored for their courage, commitment and dedication to serving our respective nations.

The honoree dinner traditionally takes place the evening before the USO Europe Service Salute- a formal event to recognize and honor outstanding U.S. enlisted service members in conjunction with their host country military counterparts.

USO Europe and their corporate sponsors host the honorees, their commanding officers, and guests at an intimate dinner the night before the Service Salute. The dinner serves as an icebreaker. Guests mingle with one another as well as take in the beautiful German culture during an evening filled with traditional food, drink and entertainment.

During the informal and quaint ceremony each honoree was presented with a medal and plaques celebrating their achievements and symbolizing the relationship and support provided between the U.S. and European armed forces.

Although, all of that pomp and circumstance was probably lost on Banda and Saiz as moments before, Banda dropped to one knee with the 13th century castle nestled into the German countryside serving as a backdrop for his proposal.

“He kept asking me to go over to this spot to take a photo- to get a photo with the views. I thought it was odd,” said Saiz.

The couple met in the Maui, Hawaii airport seven years ago. “I actually saw her in church the night before,” said Banda. “I lost sleep thinking about her and the next day I saw her in the airport. “

“He walked right up to me and interrupted a conversation I was having with a woman,” continued Saiz.

“I could have proposed to her that night in the airport,” said Brada.

The couple is unfortunately living apart with Brada currently forward deployed out of Manama, Bahrain and Saiz residing in Seattle, Washington. They hope to spread roots in California after they get married.

Although those thoughts and plans seem a little removed as the couple basks in their engagement. “We are just so excited,” said Saiz. Now they look forward to calling the states to share the news with family and friends. – Andrea Sok, USO Communications Manager

Wizards’ Blatche Donates $10,000 to Operation Enduring Care

Andray Blatche presents his foundation's donation to the USO during the evening's festivities. (Credit: USO)

On Sept. 30, Washington Wizards forward Andray Blatche entertained 16 wounded warriors and their families on the U.S.S. Sequoia Presidential Yacht in Washington, D.C. The dinner reception and evening was conceived in coordination with the USO and the USO of Metropolitan Washington to honor the sacrifices made by the troops and their families.

Blatche and his Andray Blatche Foundation presented a $10,000 check to the USO’s Operation Enduring Care for use in the construction of a game room that is planned for the Wounded Warrior and Family Center currently being built in Ft. Belvoir, Va.

Blatche began his foundation in 2009 and lives by its motto of “providing an assist whenever and wherever we can.”  Although the focus of Blatche’s foundation is primarily children, Andray has extended and expanded his sizeable charitable reach to the wounded warrior and family centers because he recognizes the need for sanctuaries from the stresses and hardships of war not only for our wounded troops but for their families and children as well.

“Professional athletes, although very good at what we do, are not heroes,” Blatche said. “We don’t ‘go into battle’; we compete in sports.  Our military fights in real battles, laying their lives on the line to protect us, our families, and our friends — giving all of us the chance to live long and happy lives.  Our military warriors are America’s heroes.  The families who watch them deploy — knowing they will be in harm’s way — are heroes.”

Blatche posed for pictures and presented each serviceman and woman with a special commemorative autographed basketball and made lifelong fans of the event’s attendees.

“You hear so many bad things about athletes, but many of them, like Andray, are doing great things,” said 14-year Army veteran Rendell Long, a guest at the reception who recently has recovered from a knee injury. “It can be hard to transition from being deployed to returning home.  Most soldiers have a lot to deal with, reconnecting with family and having to rehabilitate from a serious injury. [Operation Enduring Care] allows us a chance to heal mentally and physically.” – Christian Pelusi

Salute to Love

Operation Homefront is a non-profit whose mission is to provide emergency financial and other assistance to military families in need. They’re currently running “Salute to Love” – a chance for one lucky military couple to win a dream wedding in North Carolina’s Outer Banks!

With help from obxBrides.com, everything from food, accommodations, flowers, venue and more will be provided!  There were tons of submissions and the top finalists are now busy getting votes – there have already been more than 23,000 votes so far!

USO-Metro Employee Shalyn with her Marine fiance, Richard

Be sure to read all the couples’ stories, including USO-Metro’s very own Shalyn and her Marine fiancé, Richard! A USMC Gunny with three combat tours and a Purple Heart, Richard will be separated from Shalyn by 11,000 miles throughout their engagement.

Voting ends on October 31 – be sure to spread the word and help one of these lucky couples win!