Breathe Some Oxygen Into Your Marriage for a Stronger Family

Noel Meador with Ed and Karen Matayka at the USO Caregivers Conference

USO/Stronger Families Oxygen Seminars are one- or two-day relationship workshops for wounded, ill and injured service members and their significant others. The seminars focus on helping the couple ease common relationship challenges, such as how the dynamics of relationships often change after an injury or illness. Through a non-threatening environment and interactive exercises, couples learn how to respond to and relate to each other, to express appreciation, to increase and improve communication, and to create a relationship plan for the future.

“The Oxygen Seminar… has given me hope that things will work out where I had lost hope and patience. Most of all, it has given me a fresh set of ideas to change things that were stagnant,” said a military spouse who attended an Oxygen Seminar near Fort Drum.

Stronger Families Executive Director Noel Meador recently spoke with the USO about our partnership at the recent 2012 USO Caregivers Conference. “The greatest asset our military has to sustain the past decade of war and the future battle is a strong family. This starts by offering hope and help to couples who are struggling in their relationship. This is what Stronger Families has developed through its Oxygen For Your Relationships program. ”

Together The USO & Stronger Families plan to host 30 workshops in 2013, to include the general active duty population as well. We are happy to report that results from a recent surveys showed that 100% of attendees felt that after participation their relationship would be more resilient! Visit for more info. – Vyque White, USO Director of New Media

Dodge Ball as Therapy — and Stress Relief


John Faulkenberry, left, speaks with former President George W. Bush during The Bush Center Warrior Open last week at Las Colinas Country Club in Irving, Texas. Photo by Eric Draper/Courtesy of The Bush Center

Most of the participants at last week’s Bush Center Warrior Open find their solace on the golf course.

But not all therapy is that … well … civil.

“We played dodge ball every Friday at the Center for the Intrepid. That was pretty intense,” Retired Army Sgt. 1st Class John Faulkenberry said. “It would turn out to be patients vs. therapists. Both sides get to work out a little frustration, if you know what I mean.”

So the guy who’s been pushing you too hard in rehab turns his back and gets a ball up the side of the head?

“Yep. Just try to hit them in the face or whatever. It was fun,” Faulkenberry said. “No one thinks of dodge ball as [teaching] balance. But it’s a fun way to lighten up the mood and let everybody be goofy together while you’re still doing something athletic.”

Faulkenberry and 21 other service members who were injured during the recent wars competed at last week’s Warrior Open. The USO heavily supported the event, recruiting military guests and coordinating a military village that and provided free food and beverages to hundreds of military families on both days of the event.

Faulkenberry had his leg amputated above the knee in 2010 after years of trying to save it following a 2007 shooting in Afghanistan. He now works at the Center for the Intrepid in San Antonio—the same place where he labored to try and save his leg—as an orthotic prosthetic technician, helping patients with state-of-the-art ankle-foot braces. The braces allow patients with injured legs do things they could never do before without undergoing amputations.

“I wear scrubs at work,” Faulkenberry said. “With the long pants on, nobody can tell the difference. So when I see a patient they don’t know that I have an above-the-knee prosthetic. For me I think that’s pretty cool because I walk well enough for them not to notice. It’s also there for when someone’s feeling sorry for themselves. I can always say ‘Hey, there’s always something out there in the future for you. I have a job and I have the same leg as you.’” — Eric Brandner, USO Director of Story Development