Live from the Homefront

Tim McGraw performing at the Live from the Homefront Memorial Day Concert with USO NY and Chase

To honor all those who have served this Memorial Day, USO Metro NY and Chase partnered together to host Live From the Homefront – the first of many upcoming concerts featuring country superstar Tim McGraw.

Kip Moore opened for Tim McGraw at the Live from the Homefront Memorial Day concert

His first experience performing for the troops, opening act Kip Moore quickly had everyone on their feet, laughing and singing along. Much to the troops’ delight, he even debuted a new song inspired by all those who serve that he and his band wrote together the night before!

Getting the crowd pumped is easy when you’re Tim McGraw!

Then Tim McGraw took the stage! Singing favorites new and old, the audience screamed and cheered for his entire performance. Shaking hands and handing out high fives, McGraw later said “These men and women go out and put their lives on the line to protect the simple freedoms we enjoy every day. Playing for them last night was a thrill for me, and it was just small gesture of appreciation.”

The Memorial Day performance kicked off McGraw’s involvement with the HomeFront program, an effort from Chase and Operation Homefront to help military families buy homes. The program will provide mortgage-free houses to 25 wounded service members and military men and women in need.

The whole performance was streamed live on YouTube and the Pentagon Channel. Here are some great pictures if you missed it!

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– Vyque Elessar, USO Director of New Media

USO Houston Presents Essay Contest Winner

How has military service made your family unique?

That is the question that USO Houston asked military children to answer in their recent essay contest.

On Armed Forces Day, Saturday, May 19th, tenth grader Cheyenne Cavazos was named the winner. Cheyenne’s mother, Pamela Cavazos, said, “Cheyenne was very surprised and happy that she won the contest.”

With a father who serves in the Texas Army National Guard 551st Multi-Role Bridge Company, Cheyenne felt compelled to write about his deployments and how their family changes when he is away.

Like her father, Cheyenne is a leader for the military community. She is the Region 5 Representative for Southeast Texas in the Texas Army National Guard’s Youth Program.

Cheyenne’s essay illustrates what makes her family special and different from non-military families. She explains how everyone in a military family makes a sacrifice, not just the person serving.

That sacrifice is something Pamela Cavazos agrees with fully. “I wish more people would understand that family members of a soldier also sacrifice for this country,” she said. “Family members need support while the soldiers are away. But, regardless we all serve as one and we are very proud of our soldiers and our country.”

When they found out Cheyenne’s expressive essay had won USO Houston’s contest, Pamela Cavazos said she and her husband were very emotional and proud of their daughter’s accomplishment.

Here is Cheyenne’s winning essay:

I consider my family a unique, one of a kind family because we all serve, not just the “Green Suitor” all of us have our ups and downs, but find a way to get through it no matter how far apart we are from each other.

Family means a group consisting of parents and children living together in the same household. As a military family it’s not as simple. Growing up in a “military family” you learn there is much more than just being together, you learn respect, communication, sacrifice, and strength while your loved one risks their life to keep you as well as their country safe.

As a military family, making sacrifices is something you grow into, not always do we as a military family get to live together in the same household. Many times one has to leave for a period of time living somewhere different. A military family sticks together; it’s a family closer than most. It’s a wife without her spouse; it’s a daughter without her dad to watch her go on her first date because he is sacrificing his life.

No family is the same but a military family is a one of a kind family. In our military family as a child I knew what it meant when my dad goes to work, for most families it’s a 9-5 job, when my dad goes to work it’s a 24 hour job. Not a suit and tie but his ACU’s with his tan scuffed up boots. Not a suitcase in hand but a gun when in combat. After a long day of work most dads would come home eat dinner as they talk about their day and then spend time with his wife and kids. After a long day at work our soldier would open and heat up and MRE for dinner after walking a mile to the nearest phone to call home to hear his wife’s voice as she gets on to the kids for running in the house. Then go back to his room to play a game of Sudoku while munching on Girl Scout cookies and jalapeño chips his daughter mailed out two weeks prior. For my family this is a normal life when my dad’s deployed.

A family that sticks together through ups and downs and always tries to find a way to stay positive when duty calls; it’s a family where everyone serves, it’s a unique family, my family.

Cheyenne Cavazos

Cheyenne’s grand prize is an all-inclusive two night stay at Benchmark Hospitality International’s The Woodlands Resort for a family of four. This wonderful prize was made possible through the USO’s partnership with Benchmark Hospitality International.

USO Houston hopes to present Cheyenne and her family with the grand prize on-air at their Memorial Day phone bank on Monday. Congratulations Cheyenne on your beautifully written essay! – Sarah Camille Hipp, Communications Specialist

With You All the Way Hits Germany

We recently completed our spring portion of the With You All the Way tour. We spoke to about 15,000 kids, all of them overseas. This portion of the tour had somewhat of a bittersweet ending. The good news is that we get to rest a little bit over the summer. The bad news is that we are going to miss being around this brave group of kids for a while. Plus, a number of bases we visited are closing or consolidating, which means big changes for the military and many of the families.

Trevor RomainWe were in three cities in central Germany, Weisbaden, Heidelberg, and Stuttgart. The Heidelberg area is home to two elementary schools, Manheim Elementary school and Patrick Henry Elementary school. Manheim Elementary is closing its doors this year. Due to the army drawdown and plans for realignment in Europe, schools and bases are closing down. It has been open since 1946, and in the early nineties it had about 2,000 students. Today, there are only about 200, and those kids will be moving somewhere else next year. In fact, many are having to move now, back to the states. Many more know they are moving soon, but don’t know where they are going.

We spoke to one little girl, who towards the end of the presentation, finally had the courage to say something. Her dad was currently deployed, and she  and her mom were having to move to Colorado in the next couple of days. She was petrified, and rightfully so. I can’t imagine have my family be uprooted to a somewhere far away while I was deployed to Afghanistan and not able to offer any help. However, because the little girl had the courage to speak up, we were able to offer some assistance and expedite shipping of her USO family empowerment pack so she could have it for her travels.

Patrick Henry Elementary school is also going to close soon. These families are really in a state of flux because they know they are going to have to move but don’t know when and don’t know where. Living in this state of uncertainty is causing much stress on a lot of families. We had two great presentations at Patrick Henry. The kids were so engaged and had plenty to say. One thing that stood out in particular for me though, was a shy little girl in the back who had the courage to raise her hand.  We ask the kids what they learned during the video portion of our presentation. So she felt the need to say something. I asked, what she learned and very quietly but confidently said, “You don’t have to be in a special group to be special.” Wow, I hope everyone can learn from that.

Trever Romain consoles a young girl during his With You All The Way tour in Vicenza, Italy, recently.

We spent our last couple of days in Stuttgart. We had no idea how big Stuttgart was. There is about 5 million people in the city and surrounding area. Stuttgart is a beautiful city. It is where old meets new. Buildings that are 700 years old living happily with very modern buildings. We went to a school called Patch Elementary, on the Patch military base, which is a large army base. We had some really good presentations again. But we want to leave you with one email we received from a mom. It really makes us feel good about what we are doing and how important the work the USO is doing for military families:

 Dear Mr. Romain.  Thank you for coming to Patch Elementary School in Stuttgart.  My son did not stop talking about your visit all the way home in the car.  Then something happened when we got to the house.  You see my husband was hurt and he lost part of his leg and my son seems ashamed and angry about what happened. He always wanted to take his anger out by himself and stay locked in his room alone and did not want to deal with his dad.  And it was so hard for my husband.  He said that kind of pain was worse than his injury. Today when he came home my son wrote a letter to his dad and said he loved him and wanted to help him get better. I’m not sure what you said to him but thank you and Mr. Woody and the USO for your presentation and for helping our kids on the bases.  You just don’t know how much it means to us. I cannot thank you enough for your help.

– Trevor Romain, Performer, Author & USO Supporter

Tell the Troops: You Rock!

Time and time again you have stepped up to show our troops you support them. Wherever they’re serving, our troops need to know we’ve got their backs. And the USO has just the way for you to get that message across.

Send a donation of $25 or more and get your limited 2012 edition of the USO’s “Our Troops Know I Have Their Backs” t-shirt in time for the 4th of July.

Our troops are deployed all over the world, from Afghanistan to Okinawa to bases across the United States, serving to protect us and our country. And no matter where they are, thanks to people like you, the USO is there to support them, providing care packages, helping them connect back home, supporting our healing heroes, and so much more.

Donate $25 or more to support our troops before the June 1st deadline. We’ll rush your 2012 “I Have Their Backs” t-shirt to you in time for the 4th of July.

I know you’ll be proud to wear this very special t-shirt everywhere you go on the
4th of July.

Thanks for all you do,
Joan Jett

P.S. — These shirts are a limited edition for 2012, so don’t wait for the deadline, make sure you get yours today!

Happy Armed Forces Day

Tomorrow will be the 63rd Armed Forces Day, a day to honor all those who serve our country in our nation’s military. Here at the USO, we believe that every day is Armed Forces Day, but wanted to take a moment to say:

I would thank you from the bottom of my heart, but for you my heart has no bottom. – Anonymous

Be sure to let the troops know how much you appreciate them for all they’ve sacrificed tomorrow!

The Warrior Games Experience

The 2012 Olympic Games are just months away.  Olympic hopefuls and returning medalists are beginning to appear in advertisements, television talk shows and on billboards across the country.  Their stories of triumph and dedication to the sport is what makes the games so inspiring.  This year USO employees Andrea & Sharee had the opportunity to attend the Warrior Games – an Olympic-style competition that celebrates the achievements and abilities of wounded, ill and injured service members through athletic competition.  Although these games may not be as widely known and recognized by the world, the athletes and the competitions are just as fierce.

Andrea and Sharee at the 2012 Warrior Games

This was Andrea’s first Warrior Games, and for her colleague Sharee Posey, her third.  With all the talk about London, they sat down to reflect on our own Olympic encounter and how the athletes, families and volunteers of the 2012 Warrior Games inspired them.

Sharee, what was your biggest take-away from the Warrior Games?

The fierce competitiveness that lives within these athletes is just one layer of what the Games are all about.  It’s more than the stadiums filled with chants of “Lets Go Army…lets go!” or the “Hoorahs!” of the Marines, it’s about warriors healing together.  Don’t get me wrong, the rivalries are intense but they will never outweigh the brotherhood and sisterhood these men and women share.  It is witnessed every year at the Games, when a Soldier stops in the middle of a race, giving up his chances of taking top spot, to encourage, and sometimes push, along a fellow competitor.  While winning is the goal, the military creed of never leave a man behind still applies.

My first experience with this was at the inaugural games, when Army athlete and cyclist Jonathon Hosley and Navy Master Chief Petty Officer Will Wilson both literally and figuratively pushed Sgt. Monica Southall to the finish line, neither racer finished in time to claim a medal but crossing the finish line, together, was reward enough for all three.  Later, I had the opportunity to speak with Hosley and asked him about giving up his chance of winning the race and he said, “If we had left her behind then none of us would have won.” It is that very spirit that drives these warriors to complete their mission, whatever it maybe.

That is so true!  I have been to so many athletic competitions where you could cut the tension with a knife- but with these rivals, the camaraderie and support for their competitors was amazing! Although we heard the frequent “Let’s go Army” or the intense Navy chants during swimming, at the end of the day, we always heard a “Go USA!”

And that truly is the heart of these games, support.  Whether it’s the challenger who gives up his chances of winning to help a fellow athlete cross the finish line, the spouse or caretaker who takes on the added challenges of training, the volunteer who spends the day passing out water and snacks, or organizations like the USO who partner with the U.S. Olympic Committee to sponsor the games, we are all there for one common goal, to support these amazing men and women and their families through their recovery.

And their amazing stories of triumph…these athletes have overcome visible or invisible wounds to not only survive, but thrive.  Their energy, enthusiasm and love for the sport is contagious!  I remember when we were at the gold medal game of wheelchair basketball.  It was Army versus the Marines and I didn’t have a favorite, but I found myself on the edge of my chair for every play!  The Army took home the gold that night, but you wouldn’t know it talking to any of the Marines, they were just as excited to be center court receiving their silver medals.

We did meet so many amazing people.  During the archery competition I spoke with a young Sailor who had been injured in Norfolk, Va., and suffers from Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). When I asked about the incident that caused his injuries he told me he doesn’t talk about it because talking about it makes him remember it more. And when I asked him his name he smiled at me and said, “Crash, that’s what everyone calls me now.”

Crash had just competed and while he wouldn’t talk about how he sustained his injuries, he was more than happy to talk about his love of archery, a sport he never played until he began training for the 2012 Warrior Games.

Archery is a release for him, it was something he can do to take his mind of his injuries, and he loves to compete and to be part of a team.

I hope we see Crash at next year’s games.  I look forward to returning in 2013 and cheering on these healing heroes.

Me too.  The games are a truly inspiring and unique experience and the athletes continue to amaze me year after year.

To see more photos from the 2012 Warrior Games check out this slideshow by the USO:

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