USO Warrior and Family Center at Bethesda, Md., to Open Next Week

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BETHESDA, Md.-The culmination of years of work is just one weekend away.

The ribbon will officially be cut Tuesday at the USO Warrior and Family Center at Naval Support Activity Bethesda – the home Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. More than 100 Department of Defense officials, donors, special guests, and – of course – recovering troops and their family members will attend.

The center – which is the sister structure to the USO Warrior and Family Center at Fort Belvoir, Va. – will be a much-needed home away from home for wounded, ill and injured troops and their families and caregivers.

Check out the photos above, take a look at the work this of our generous partners – like A. James Clark and Northrop Grumman – who made the building possible and see this item on the NFL Sports Lounge we published earlier this week. And don’t forget to check USO.org on Monday and Tuesday for coverage of the opening.

–USO Story Development

On TV Tonight: Walking With the Wounded South Pole Expedition Gets a Primetime Slot on NBC

If you’re looking for something uplifting, click over to NBC this evening at 8 p.m. EDT and check out “Prince Harry’s South Pole Heroes,” a documentary that followed last December’s Walking With The Wounded trek to the South Pole.

The dangerous trek featured three teams made up of troops injured in the recent wars. The USO sponsored one of those service members – former Army Sgt. Margaux Mange – who was injured in Iraq in 2006.

“The experience has opened new doors for me,” Mange said earlier this week. “And the USO, from Iraq to the South Pole, has always been there for me and I know they will continue to be there for me in the future. Thank you so much.”

As a prelude to tonight’s event, you can watch Mange tell her story about battling back from injuries in this November 2013 clip: 

TEAM USO Still has Entries to the Biggest Marathons, Triathlons and Other Races of 2014

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Spring is finally here, and if one of your New Year’s resolutions was to finish a marathon, half-marathon or triathlon, you should be well into the latter part of your final training cycle.

What’s that? You haven’t started training? You haven’t signed up for a race yet? Well have no fear—TEAM USO is here!

With spots still available in the most popular races in the country, TEAM USO can help you select a race, put a fitness plan into place to get you out there in your go-fasters or tenny-runners in no time.

First step? Well, stretch, of course.

Next, visit www.TeamUSO.org/compete and select a race.

You can travel to the Big Apple for the New York City Marathon, swim across the frigid San Francisco Bay in the Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon or shout along with your favorite grunts at the Marine Corps Marathon. Whichever race you choose, TEAM USO has an online fundraising tool that makes it easy to send emails to friends and family asking them to support the troops by sponsoring you.

Race with TEAM USO to help make the lives of our brave servicemen and women and their families a little bit easier by providing programs and services through our USO centers worldwide.

Troops Still Battling PTSD, Other Invisible Wounds 11 Years After Start of Iraq War

The United States dropped the first bombs of the Iraq War 11 years ago today. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Army.

The United States dropped the first bombs of the Iraq War 11 years ago today. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Army.

The United States dropped the first bombs of the Iraq War 11 years ago today.

That war is over, but many troops who fought there are now waging personal battles at home. While thousands suffered physical wounds, the nightmare of war is refought in the minds of hundreds of thousands of troops daily as they suffer with traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“One of my friends said, as she put it, that her husband, he didn’t die, but he didn’t come home,” said Nicole James, wife of former Marine Sgt. Jesse James, who deployed to Iraq twice and deals with PTSD and other aftereffects of several blasts. “He’s a completely different guy. It’s a grieving process in accepting that it’s not him. … You have to go through that and accept that it’s not going to be him, so you can move on toward accepting who he is now and working forward and making progress on it.”

The USO has several programs and services for troops who served in Iraq who are wrestling with the daily impact of PTSD while trying to transition to civilian life.

  • The USO Warrior and Family Center at Fort Belvoir, Va.: The USO built the first-of-its-kind Warrior and Family Center on the Fort Belvoir medical campus so troops receiving recurring treatment there could have a place to start their transition with programs like USO/Hire Heroes USA Transition Workshops, art therapy offerings like Combat Paper, and more. Troops there can also use the facility to relax, watch TV or grab a snack.

  • Stronger Families Oxygen Seminars: This valuable program brings couples together in a classroom setting to help improve their relationships. Check out this clip for a great story from Stronger Families Executive Director Noel Meador:

  • USO Caregivers Conferences: Caregivers of wounded warriors need help, too. The USO has held multiple Caregivers Conferences to address concerns like compassion fatigue and helping kids deal with drastic life changes.

  • Adaptive sports: Many recovering service members find solace and regain their confidence on the playing field. The USO supports endeavors like the Marine Corps Trials and Warrior Games. Take a look:

Volunteers Keep Spirits High (and Somewhat Dry) During USO Kandahar Flash Flood Cleanup

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When you deploy to the desert, flooding isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. Still, a group of USO volunteers and staff bailed out USO Kandahar from a messy situation over the weekend when flash flooding filled some of the center’s rooms with ankle-high water.

“We had a great group of volunteers that were quick to help us get all the furniture and boxes upstairs and to the theatre, which was higher ground and less likely to be affected by the water,” USO Kandahar’s Deborah Ayers wrote in an email. “Within an hour and a half, the water was about 3 inches deep in two of the back rooms, and had pushed forward about halfway through the tent. At that point, the tent had been cleared out except for the volunteers, who went out front to assess the damage.

“[USO Kandahar] has experienced floods almost every year, so this was somewhat expected, and thanks to the amazing cooperation and coordination of the volunteers and staff we got away with minimal damage and we’re up and running again!”

Guitar Heroes: KISS, Def Leppard Announce Summer Tour to Benefit USO, Other Nonprofits

On Monday, nine famous men – four in heavy makeup – said they’re taking their guitars on the road to support the troops.

Paul Stanley of KISS talks to troops in Virginia Beach, Va., in 2010. Photo courtesy of the Navy

Paul Stanley of KISS talks to troops in Virginia Beach, Va., in 2010. Photo courtesy of the Navy

Kiss and Def Leppard announced their Heroes Tour during a press event at the House of Blues in Los Angeles. The tour – which starts June 23 in Utah – will cover more than 40 dates coast-to-coast. A dollar from each ticket sold will be split among multiple military support organizations, including the USO.

Troops who want to check out the show should visit kissonline.com/heroes for discount details.

KISS – which will be inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame next month – is no stranger to supporting the military. In 2011, the USO’s Joseph Andrew Lee talked to guitarist Paul Stanley about the band’s support for wounded warriors.