Photos: Celebrites sign the USO flag in Las Vegas

The USO Every Moment Counts flag got some love from a star-studded crowd in Las Vegas this week. Celebrities like David Spade, Lance Bass, Jennifer Lopez and Jordin Sparks all stopped by the USO booth to sign our flag and to help the USO break a Guinness World Record for most signatures on a flag.

See who else signed the flag in Las Vegas:

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Video: USO, Congress and Sesame Street Team Build Warrior Care Packs for Recovering Troops

WASHINGTON—The USO enlisted help from Sesame Street and members of Congress to assemble 1,500 USO Warrior Care Packs for wounded, ill and injured troops at a service project Tuesday on Capitol Hill.

“The USO has always symbolized the outward expression of America’s commitment to our warriors, and now more than ever I think it’s so important,” said Congressman Tim Walz, a USO Congressional Caucus Co-Chair. “The American people care deeply, but they’re busy. … That’s where you and the USO come in to make sure to let them know that we are thinking of them — every moment of every day.”

Elmo, Cookie Monster, Grover and Katie – a muppet created especially for the Sesame Street/USO Experience for Military Families – helped Congress members and their aides assemble packages in the foyer of the Rayburn House Office Building. Those packages will head overseas for troops who need them most. Learn more about the USO Warrior Care Pack program and the Sesame Street/USO tour at USO.org.

–Video by Joseph Andrew Lee

 

5 Things You Can Do to Thank America’s Troops on Armed Forces Day

DOD photo

Department of Defense photo

Saturday is Armed Forces Day, making it the perfect day to show your support for America’s troops stationed around the world. Here are five ways to show your thanks to America’s troops and their families:

1. Thank a service member: Whether you see someone in uniform traveling through the airport or know one of your neighbors is in the National Guard, take a moment to thank them for their service.

2. Sign the USO flag online: This is perhaps the easiest-to-achieve entry on the list. Just go to USOmoments.org and sign the flag. You’ll get to show our troops your appreciation and help the USO break a Guinness World Record.

3. Share your thanks on social media: The USO has 30,000 interactions with troops every day at our 160-plus centers around the globe. But while we’re making them feel home away from home in person, you can let them know how you feel about them by tweeting or Facebooking your message and then adding the hashtag #USOmoments at the end. And don’t forget to follow the USO on Twitter and like us on Facebook.

4. Head to a Major League game in one of these four cities: The USO will have a significant presence at ballparks around the country on Saturday. If you’re going to a game in Chicago (Cubs), Cleveland, Houston or Washington, take a walk to find the USO booth and sign a piece of the Every Moment Counts flag. Then, take a photo of yourself near the flag table and put it on Twitter or Instagram with the #USOmoments hashtag. We’ll pick one winner next week to send an Every Moment Counts T-shirt.

5. And if you’re in North Carolina … : You can celebrate all day in the Tar Heel state, as Gov. Pat McCrory issued an official citation proclaiming May 17 as Armed Forces Day to celebrate the state’s 800,000 veterans and 132,000 uniformed personnel:

N.C. Proclamation Armed Forces Day

A Long Way for a Surprise: USO Helps Mom Continue Tradition of Getting Unlikely Gifts to Air Force Daughter on Birthday

Emily Arthur received a birthday surprise courtesy of USO Bagram thanks to her enterprising mother.

Air Force Capt. Emily Arthur received a birthday surprise in 2012 courtesy of USO Bagram thanks to her enterprising mother.

No matter where she’s been stationed the last decade, Air Force Capt. Emily Arthur’s mother Jeanne McConnell has always found a way to surprise her on her birthday.

The challenges differed from year to year, base to base. One year she snuck a cake into the Air Force Academy during Arthur’s freshman year. Another year she embarrassed her daughter in front of her first command with a sheet cake made from a childhood photograph of 12-year-old Arthur in a Star Trek costume.

“She’s usually absolutely horrified,” said McConnell, a USO Delaware volunteer. “She’s got a prankster for a mother, and of course most of the time it’s totally embarrassing. But I know she loves it.”

Arthur deployed to Afghanistan in 2012, presenting McConnell her most challenging surprise birthday connection to date.

“It was my 30th birthday, so it was kind of a big one,” said Arthur, who was born Feb. 28, 1982. “And you know, I was sad, because it’s hard enough being away from home. I’d pretty much written off any chance of receiving anything.”

Arthur had just arrived at Bagram Air Base. Her mail wasn’t showing up yet. And with all the mortar attacks the base was getting, there wasn’t much celebrating going on.

McConnell knew there was a USO at Bagram Air Base, so she thought she would at least give it a try.

“It’s always been a challenge, but I’ve never been unsuccessful,” McConnell said. “But I really thought Bagram was going to be my Waterloo.”

Through a sequence of emails, however, Jeanne was connected with Scott Wilhite, the director of the Pat Tillman Memorial USO at Bagram East, who told McConnell he’d find a way to make the moment happen.

“It may not be the traditional birthday cake,” Wilhite wrote, “but we will think of something.”

Working only with the information that Arthur worked in contracting near the main gate, the USO was able to track her down and deliver the birthday surprise.

“A group of people came into the building and I thought for sure they were just more customers,” Arthur said. “But when I saw the USO logo, I just knew my mom sent them and the tears started flowing.

“It made a huge difference for me I just thought ‘Wow, I cannot believe she was able to get something to me from halfway across the world through the USO.'”

“It still makes me cry to think about all those people helping us reach out and touch our daughter in the war zone,” McConnell wrote in a thank you email to Wilhite. “THIS is why I volunteer … to pay it forward for all the USO’s around the world that have been there for Emily and her husband during their [Air Force] careers. I want to be that volunteer that makes that ‘special day’ for someone else’s son or daughter.”

This year, Arthur’s parents flew out to Randolph Air Force Base, Texas, to visit her on her birthday, but this year Arthur had a surprise of her own. And it has to do with her mother’s birthday later this fall.

“We already got your present,” Arthur told her mother. “But you have to come here to get it. It’s going to be delivered on your birthday.”

“What is it?” McConnell asked.

“Your first grandchild,” she said with a smile. “I’m pregnant!”

By Joseph Andrew Lee, USO Multimedia Journalist

Support in Reverse: Guardsmen Help Out USO South Carolina Staffer Who Got a Flat Tire on Way to Restock Camp McCrady

South Carolina National Guard Sgt. Gene Parker - along with Sgt. 1st Class Charles Boone - provided clutch roadside assistance for the USO over the weekend. USO photo

South Carolina National Guard Sgt. Gene Parker – along with Sgt. 1st Class Charles Boone – provided clutch roadside assistance for the USO over the weekend. USO photo

For the past three years, the USO has provided a day room at Camp McCrady, South Carolina, a remote installation where the Army trains some Navy personnel before deployment. Because of its remote location, National Guardsmen maintain the day room and USO staff checks in on it and delivers supplies as needed.

Last weekend, USO South Carolina Program Manager Katie Kennedy got a flat tire on her way to restock the day room. She immediately called range operations to let them know she would be delayed. She didn’t expect what happened next.

“I wasn’t even on Camp McCrady yet,” Kennedy said. “But they dropped everything to come to my rescue.”

South Carolina National Guard Sgt. Gene Parker and Sgt. 1st Class Charles Boone drove out to Kennedy’s Jeep, changed the flat tire and got her back on the road.

“They knew I was coming out to support the deployment, so I was basically essential personnel,” she said. “It really tells you a lot about how valued your services are when troops act with such haste to make sure you get there on time.

“We’re out there trying to make moments count for them, and here they turn around and make one count for me.”

We Want Your Autograph: Photos and Video From the USO’s Push to Break the Guinness World Record for Number of Signatures on a Flag

The USO officially kicked off it’s push to set a Guinness World Record for most signatures on a flag last week, and we’re off to a strong start.

You can be part of the world record push by signing digitally here or by going to a USO event that features a piece of the flag (look for events on your local USO’s Facebook page). And when you’re done signing, check back throughout the next month for images and videos (like the ones below) from USO flag signings around the world.

Troops, military families and supporters around the world are lining up to sign the flag:

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Meanwhile, USO multimedia journalist Sandi Moynihan took this InstaVid at USO Arlington during one of the many flag-signing kickoff events:

Have you signed the flag? #USOmoments

A video posted by The USO (@theuso) on