With Her All The Way: USO Hawaii Helps Girl Replace Threadbare Bear

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Lana Griffin clutches her old and new Cuzzie Bears at a USO Hawaii area office. USO photo

You can only sew up a bear so many times.

That’s the dilemma one Hawaii-based family had when their daughter’s Cuzzie bear – a staple of Comfort Crew “With You All The Way” deployment kits – was hanging together by its last threads.

The Griffin family received the bear in a kit given to their son, Lucas, while living near USO Yokosuka in Japan. Their daughter, Lana, inherited the bear from her older brother and has toted it around the Pacific ever since.

Lana’s mother, Shawna, had been searching for a replacement for the bear, but couldn’t find one for a reasonable cost. The family eventually called USO Hawaii and explained the situation.

The staff at the USO dug out a new Cuzzie and had it waiting when Lana and her family arrived at the center.

“Seeing firsthand how meaningful USO programs are to our military families and the comfort they provide was so touching. It was truly a full-circle moment,” said USO Hawaii Programs Manager Kristin Tierney. “We often don’t get to share these moments with those we touch, and hearing the impact that Cuzzie Bear has had on this family just solidifies why we do what we do.”

You can read more about the significance of the Cuzzie bear here.

In other news around the USO:

  • USO Fort Drum was named the Greater Watertown-North County Chamber of Commerce Business of the Year in the “nonprofit, 50 or fewer employees” category.

–Story by USO Story Development

Faces of the USO: An Invaluable Liaison

Screen Shot 2013-03-04 at 4.30.20 PMBefore coming to the USO, Tomoko McManus lent her skills to some of Japan’s largest, most influential companies, including Nissan, Sony and Fukuda Denshi.

She called on her English language proficiency as she worked with engineers to translate technical documents and manuals. In 2009, McManus learned about the USO during an area orientation at Yokosuka Air Base. She also learned that USO Japan was looking for an administrative assistant.

At home, she told her husband, a retired U.S. service member, about the vacancy.

“He told me that the USO is a great organization,” she said. “It made me think this is an organization I could be a part of.”

Since then McManus, a native of Tateyama in Chiba prefecture, has been an invaluable member of the USO Japan staff. On a daily basis, she fields emails and phone calls and works on reports. She manages the area director’s schedule, arranging travel and meetings.

And she’s still putting her dual language skills to use. She serves as translator when the area director meets with host-nation companies, Japanese government officials or members of the Japan Self-Defense Forces.

During bazaars, McManus is a liaison to international vendors, coordinating base access. And she is intimately involved in planning and executing the annual Service Salute.

“Working with the USO as a volunteer or a staff member is a lot of work but it truly is rewarding,” she said. “When you get a thank you and a smile from a service member that has been deployed or away from home, it makes all of the hard work worth it.” – Derek Turner, USO Sr. Editor

USO San Diego Supports Marine Corps Trials

The Marine Corps has kicked off its competitive selection process to find 50 athletes to represent the service at the fourth annual Warrior Games — a Paralympics-style competition for wounded, ill and injured members of America’s armed services.

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Wheelchair racing is a popular event at the Marine Corps Trials. USMC Photo

The Marine Corps Trials – hosted by the Marine Corps Wounded Warrior Regiment and supported by USO San Diego – includes individual and team competitions in sitting volleyball, wheelchair basketball, swimming, cycling, shooting, archery, and track and field. The competition officially opened Thursday.

Four teams – Battalion East, Battalion West, Marine Corps Veteran and International – will go head-to-head for the team gold medal. The international team includes wounded, ill and injured military athletes from eight allied nations, including the United Kingdom, Canada, France, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Colombia and the Netherlands.

Every year, the competition intensifies as more athletes vie for a spot in the Warrior Games, a unique event that hosts teams comprised from the Marine Corps, Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard and Special Operations Command in a different kind of battle. Although competition is fierce and emotions run high, the trials and the subsequent Warrior Games are designed to promote physical activity, camaraderie and fellowship – all critical parts of the healing process.

“The athletes will learn skills that will enable them to be highly successful not only at the trials and games but in their future endeavors,” said Jennifer Sullivan, who manages the regiment’s Warrior Athlete Reconditioning Program.

The 50 Marines who are selected to represent the Marine Corps will compete against the Army, Navy/Coast Guard and Special Operations teams at the 2013 Warrior Games, scheduled for May 11-17 at the U.S. Olympic Complex and the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo.

The weekend’s events are open to the public and free to attend.

“Americans do it right,” Germany coach Michael Weiger said at the 2012 Marine Corps Trials. “Troops are finding support by their families, by the communities and volunteers who are doing this mostly on their own expense. That is a real good morale booster. There are other countries [that] sure can learn from it.”

—Story by Joseph A. Lee, USO staff writer

You can sponsor athletes through a donation to USO San Diego. Click here for more information.

Phi Gamma Delta at Allegheny College Raises $1,000 for USO

The first annual Fiji Valentine’s Day Date Auction in support of the USO

The first annual Fiji Valentine’s Day Date Auction in support of the USO

With many members who are serving or have served in the military, the Fraternity of Phi Gamma Delta launched its philanthropic partnership with the USO in 2011. The brothers accepted the challenge with over 30 chapters holding events and raising more than $30,000 in support of our brave men and women in uniform.

On February 12, 2013 the Pi Colony of Phi Gamma Delta at Allegheny College hosted the first annual Fiji Valentine’s Day Date Auction.  Up for bid were the brothers of Phi Gamma Delta, members of other fraternities and members of university athletic teams.   Like most date auctions, each individual lot included not just the person being auctioned off, but a useful, and sometimes unique, talent.  Buyers had choices ranging from the typical home cooked meal to trips to local establishments for a night of entertainment to the ever-in-demand cleaning service.  Groups of fraternity brothers were auctioned off for the big jobs like on-campus housing cleaning and extreme snow shoveling during the next blizzard.  The highest winning bid was for $190 for a group of twelve gentlemen from Sigma Alpha Epsilon.  At the end of the evening $1,000 was raised to benefit our servicemen and women through the USO.

“Many Phi Gamma Delta brothers proudly serve (or have served) our military, making it easy for our chapters to see the benefit their support provides. In addition, the coaching and resources the USO staff provide help our undergraduate chapters to more easily plan and execute fundraising and service events, allowing them to make a difference in the lives of our men and women in uniform,” said Rob Caudill, Director of Education, Phi Gamma Delta International Headquarters.

Going once, going twice...

Going once, going twice…

Fiji chapters have chosen to support programs like United Through Reading’s Military Program, Operation Phone Home, USO2GO, Mobile Entertainment Gaming Systems (MEGS) and Operation USO Care Package as well as in their local communities through our USO Centers. Phi Gamma Delta is on 140 campuses at the foremost colleges and universities of the United States and Canada. Service is one of the fraternity’s five values and recognizes its obligation to give back to the campuses and communities that foster its growth. - Lisa Ferrari Carter, USO Relationship Manager