USO Korea Shares Holiday Spirit with Operation Christmas Cheer

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USO Camp Casey Programs Coordinator Sophia Lim, right, stands with some volunteers carrying a load of stockings for troops in South Korea as part of USO Korea’s Operation Christmas Cheer Program. USO photo

USO Korea brightened the days of more than 6,000 soldiers stationed across the Korean peninsula this month with stockings full of goodies donated by Operation Give. As part of USO Korea’s Operation Christmas Cheer program, soldiers from the northern Camp Stanley to the southern Camp Henry and everywhere in between received a friendly knock on their door from a USO volunteer bearing a special surprise: a stocking overflowing with books, playing cards, calendars, personal hygiene items and snacks.

“I knocked on so many doors to give gifts my knuckles are bleeding,” one soldier-volunteer joked after the event, which went from Dec. 18 to Dec. 25.

The efforts of the volunteers who stuffed stockings in the U.S. and the 90-plus volunteers who distributed those stockings in South Korea were clearly appreciated. The USO received positive praise from key base personnel and soldiers in all four USO Korea service areas. But the shocked grins and heartfelt thanks from service members across Korea were the best rewards.

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Two soldiers show off their new stockings — saxophones not included — delivered by USO Korea volunteers. Stocking supplies were donated by Operation Give. USO photo

One soldier was so grateful that he took the time to email the young stocking stuffer back in the U.S., whose email address was included in the stocking.

“The USO just came by our barracks roughly 30 minutes ago and gave myself and many other soldiers in our barracks a beautiful Christmas stocking with all kinds of goodies,” the soldier wrote. “I wanted to say thank you … [T]hank you for making my lonely holidays better. This will be the [sixth] Christmas I spent away from my family, so the more times I spend away from my family the harder it gets to feel the “Holiday” cheer. [B]ut young American’s like yourself and the incredible USO [v]olunteers (on the “CC”) make me feel much better. … Thank you again for the outstanding gesture and the great feeling of warmth from across the waters.”

As evidenced by this email – and thanks to the hard work of all of the USO volunteers in Korea and the U.S. – USO Korea can declare this mission accomplished. Thanks again to Operation Give for their support of the troops, and happy holidays.

–Story by Laura Martinez, USO Korea Programs Manager

At Home In Our Hearts

Today, as they do every day, our brave servicemen and women are going to extraordinary lengths to protect our freedoms and defend our way of life.

During this holiday season, I’m asking you to take a moment to thank our troops and honor their service.

Your At Home In Our Hearts donation will allow us to translate your heartfelt “thank you” into the vitally important programs and services that mean so much to our troops.

Click here to make your contribution to support of our troops. Make your At Home In Our Hearts donation to the USO today and we’ll send you an American flag as a token of our appreciation.

Screen Shot 2012-12-27 at 11.35.53 AMI am immensely proud to be a part of an organization dedicated to being on the frontlines with our servicemen and women and standing side-by-side with our wounded troops recovering here at home.

As part of the At Home In Our Hearts campaign, the USO will provide our troops with free phone calls home, wounded warrior recovery care packages, mobile USO2GO kits that bring a touch of home to our troops serving in even the most remote outposts abroad.

So whether they’re serving on the frontlines or recovering here at home, you can let our troops know they’re always At Home In Our Hearts.

Make your year-end donation to the USO today and get your American flag.

I want to say “thank you” for all you have done and continue to do for our troops especially, particularly around the holidays. I can’t tell you how grateful they are to know supporters like you are standing by their side and supporting them. - Brigadier General John Pray, USAF (Ret.)

Military Bowl Presented by Northrop Grumman to Raise Money for USO

The Military Bowl presented by Northrop Grumman will again bring the excitement of postseason college football to the Washington, D.C., area Thursday while also supporting the USO and our nation’s military personnel.

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Now in its fifth year, The Military Bowl is projected to raise more than $100,000 for the USO while providing at least 5,000 complimentary tickets for active-duty military personnel and their families.

This year’s matchup pits Bowling Green (8-4) against No. 24 San Jose State (10-2). It will be the first meeting between the two teams. Kickoff is set for 3 p.m. EST at RFK Stadium, and the game will be televised nationally on ESPN.

“We couldn’t be more excited,” Military Bowl Executive Director and President Steve Beck said. “This could potentially be the best matchup in our five-year history.”

The popular military village will also return for a second year. Located on the D.C. Armory Mall on the way to RFK Stadium, the village – along with a new outdoor tailgate – will be open from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. on game day. Admission to the military village is free.

“The military village was wildly successful in its debut last year and we’re looking forward to an even better experience this year,” Beck said. “Nothing can replicate this event.”

Among the military displays scheduled are:

  • An MH-65 helicopter and crew
  • A 29-foot Coast Guard boat
  • A Navy SEAL pull-up challenge
  • Two Humvees and other large equipment from the Navy Seabees
  • A helicopter and three tactical vehicles from the Army National Guard
  • A helicopter, robot demonstration and K-9 demonstration from the Air Force
  • Two Mobile USO units with giveaways.

The rock and blues band Halfway to Concord will perform throughout the day, and a drill team performance will take place at 1:30 p.m. in front of the USO Metro Mobile. Food and beverages will be available for purchase from food trucks and vendors.

It’s not too late to get tickets, which are on sale at militarybowl.org, with prices starting at just $2.

–Story by Joseph Andrew Lee, USO Staff Writer

Away from Home for the Holidays: USO Events Spread Seasonal Cheer to Troops and Families

Among the many sacrifices our troops make, being away from family during the holidays is near the top of the list. The USO understands this and is constantly working to make sure troops all over the world know how much their efforts are appreciated.

Here’s a brief (and far from all-inclusive) look at holiday events the USO held for troops and families in the last week:

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Holiday cheer in the desert. USO photo

USO Bagram Duty Manager Michelle Turner, front bottom left and USO Forward Operating Base Fenty Duty Manager Jason Lewis, center right in red, helped troops deliver Christmas cheer to Forward Operating Base Torkham in Nangarhar province, Afghanistan, with a little help from Molson Air.

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Thanks to generous donations, military children in New England will get a few extra gifts this holiday season. USO photo

Thanks to generous donations, military children in New England will get a few extra gifts this holiday season. USO photo by Sarah Kelley

Instead of preselected gifts from anonymous donors, USO New England’s Little Elf pilot program allowed military families to shop for their gifts at Target. Each family was given a set amount to spend on their children, with USO staff and volunteers on hand to pay the bill with funds specifically donated for the endeavor and to wrap the gifts on site.

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Apparently, you’re never too old for a visit with Santa. USO photo

Santa and company found ways to make things festive at Camp Buehring, Kuwait. Check out their robust photo collection from December events here.

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A special guest at USO Fort Hood's Story Time. USO photo

A special guest at USO Fort Hood’s Story Time. USO photo

USO Fort Hood’s Story Time went down a different path last week when children got a visit from Santa. The recurring event–held for children up to 4 years old–featured a reading of “Santa Bear” and the distribution of stockings filled with a USO teddy bear, a juice box and animal crackers.

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Business and individuals from around the Washington, D.C., area pitched in big for USO Metro's Project Elf. USO photo

Businesses and individuals from around the Washington, D.C., area pitched in big for USO Metro’s Project Elf. USO photo

USO of Metropolitan Washington’s Project Elf brought hundreds of gifts to military children last week. USO Metro took toys and clothes purchased by donors for military kids in the local area, wrapped them and distributed them at Fort Meade, Md., and Fort Belvoir, Va.

–USO centers around the world are America’s way of supporting the troops. Show your support by making your year-end donation today here.

Wreaths Across America Draws Thousands to Arlington National Cemetery

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Thousands gathered Saturday morning at Arlington National Cemetery to pay their respects by helping Wreaths Across America lay wreaths on the headstones of American servicemen and women.

More than 110,000 wreaths were placed on Arlington graves Saturday. USO Warrior and Family Care once again helped Wreaths Across America’s efforts by contributing funds to the event.

Google, USO Honor Military With Circus Performance

Screen Shot 2012-12-07 at 1.00.37 PMAs a part of Veterans Week NYC, the USO and Google teamed up with Big Apple Circus to provide laughs for more than 1,500 veterans, active duty service members and their families! This special performance opened with a full military color guard, with the ‘Star Spangled Banner’ performed by the USO Liberty Bells, and an had a guest ringmaster, Congressional Medal of Honor Recipient Paul Bucha of the U.S. Army. The show was held in NYC’s Lincoln Center and also streamed live on both YouTube and Google+.

Jenny Milewski, wife of SSGT Bryan Milewski  said “We were thrilled to have the opportunity to see the Big Apple Circus! Each family member had a favorite part—we had never been to the Big Apple Circus, but we are now going to make it a family tradition! This was one of the highlights of Veterans Week, and the USO has been so wonderful to our family.”

Watch some of the highlights with your family now!