USO’s Reyes Focuses on Caregivers, Spouses at Hero Summit

USO Senior Vice President of Operations Alan Reyes, left, discusses military families at The Daily Beast’s Hero Summit in Washington on Oct. 10. (Photo courtesy of The Daily Beast)

USO Senior Vice President of Operations Alan Reyes, left, discusses military families at The Daily Beast’s Hero Summit in Washington on Oct. 10. (Photo courtesy of The Daily Beast)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Alan Reyes, the USO’s Senior Vice President of Operations, is no stranger to the sacrifices and hardships a military families faces when a parent is overseas. His father, a 30-year Navy veteran, was deployed when Reyes was born and didn’t meet his son until he was two months old.

Reyes, a Navy reservist, was a panelist at The Daily Beast’s Hero Summit in Washington on Thursday and was part of a discussion that focused on the life-changing hardships endured by military families when a family member is deployed or returns home with battle scars.

“When a wounded warrior returns from war – regardless of whether they have a visible or invisible wound – that individual is often a different person who now needs care,” Reyes said. “That creates a specific stress on the caregiver as an individual, on that couple and on the family.”

The USO knows that caregivers and spouses of wounded, ill and injured troops play an instrumental role in the recovery of their loved one. To recognize their efforts and help them through their transition, the USO holds Caregivers Conferences to let them know they are not alone.

“[The USO] brings together caregivers – primarily spouses, but sometimes mothers and fathers, even brothers or sisters – of wounded, ill and injured troops and helps give them tools, tactics and things they need to cope with the challenges in their lives.”

Reyes, who was joined on stage by co-panelists Dr. Tommy Sowers, an assistant secretary at the VA and Brannan Vines, founder and president of Family of a Vet, an advocacy group, also spoke about how the USO uses technology to help bridge the gap between deployed troops and their families.

“Today, there is an opportunity to strengthen that family bond whether [the family member] is deployed around the world or not. We have nine centers in Afghanistan and many of those soldiers, Marines, sailors and airmen have spouses at home. … We have the ability through our USO Centers to connect them through free phone calls and Internet access.

“We even have the opportunity to have service members virtually in the delivery room watching through Skype so they can be there in that moment experiencing [the birth of their child] along with their spouse.”

Reyes took a moment to recognize the unsung heroism of family members who don’t deploy, saying “those of us who are in uniform and deploy, we really look at the family as heroes and not the other way around.”

–Story by USO Story Development

USO, Universal Pictures’ ‘Battleship’ Team to Thank Vets, Troops on Veterans Day

On this Veterans Day, the USO and Universal Pictures encourage everyone to visit our Facebook page to share their stories of friends and family members who serve or have served in defense of our country and of democracy around the world. This partnership between the USO and Universal Pictures also focuses on the studio’s upcoming movie release of “Battleship,” slated for release next summer.

Described as “an epic action-adventure that unfolds across the seas, in the skies and over land as our planet fights for survival against a superior force” by Universal Pictures, “Battleship” stars Taylor Kitsch (NBC’s “Friday Night Lights”), supermodel Brooklyn Decker, Alexander Skarsgard (HBO’s “True Blood”), recording artist superstar Rihanna and acting great Liam Neeson.

In the featurette below, go behind the scenes with film director Peter Berg (“Friday Night Lights,” “The Kingdom,” “Hancock”) as he shows how the production has incorporated active duty and retired military members into the movie and what they bring to the feature. (Look closely and you might be able to catch glimpses of some of the film’s stars, as well.)

Want more? View the theatrical trailer. — Christian Pelusi, USO

Say Cheese! Order a Papa John’s Pizza to Raise Money for Troops

Papa John’s and the USO are teaming up to raise funds to support our troops and their families with a promotion that’s as easy as pie … pizza pie.

Papa John’s has pledged to donate $1 to the USO for every purchase of the USO Meal Deal — two large, one-topping pizzas for $20 — today through Nov. 20. And on Veterans Day, Papa John’s supports America’s troops and their families with an “11-11-11” Special: Papa John’s will donate $1 to the USO for every online order from 11 a.m. EST-11 p.m. PST. Quite a way to celebrate our nation’s current and retired armed forces.

Check out the commercial to get fired up for a piping hot pizza that will warm the hearts of troops and their families while warming your belly. Place an order now. — Christian Pelusi, USO

Wizards’ Blatche Donates $10,000 to Operation Enduring Care

Andray Blatche presents his foundation's donation to the USO during the evening's festivities. (Credit: USO)

On Sept. 30, Washington Wizards forward Andray Blatche entertained 16 wounded warriors and their families on the U.S.S. Sequoia Presidential Yacht in Washington, D.C. The dinner reception and evening was conceived in coordination with the USO and the USO of Metropolitan Washington to honor the sacrifices made by the troops and their families.

Blatche and his Andray Blatche Foundation presented a $10,000 check to the USO’s Operation Enduring Care for use in the construction of a game room that is planned for the Wounded Warrior and Family Center currently being built in Ft. Belvoir, Va.

Blatche began his foundation in 2009 and lives by its motto of “providing an assist whenever and wherever we can.”  Although the focus of Blatche’s foundation is primarily children, Andray has extended and expanded his sizeable charitable reach to the wounded warrior and family centers because he recognizes the need for sanctuaries from the stresses and hardships of war not only for our wounded troops but for their families and children as well.

“Professional athletes, although very good at what we do, are not heroes,” Blatche said. “We don’t ‘go into battle’; we compete in sports.  Our military fights in real battles, laying their lives on the line to protect us, our families, and our friends — giving all of us the chance to live long and happy lives.  Our military warriors are America’s heroes.  The families who watch them deploy — knowing they will be in harm’s way — are heroes.”

Blatche posed for pictures and presented each serviceman and woman with a special commemorative autographed basketball and made lifelong fans of the event’s attendees.

“You hear so many bad things about athletes, but many of them, like Andray, are doing great things,” said 14-year Army veteran Rendell Long, a guest at the reception who recently has recovered from a knee injury. “It can be hard to transition from being deployed to returning home.  Most soldiers have a lot to deal with, reconnecting with family and having to rehabilitate from a serious injury. [Operation Enduring Care] allows us a chance to heal mentally and physically.” — Christian Pelusi

Updated USO Center at Dulles International Airport Welcomes Military Families

The USO center located at Dulles International Airport has expanded its lounge and by doing so, has doubled the amenities that it can offer transitioning troops and their families. Click over to the USO Metropolitan Washington site for all of the details.

View the video from the D.C.’s local CBS affiliate’s story on the renovation.

U.S. Army Celebrates 236th Anniversary


Lt. Gen. David Huntoon, director of the Army staff, and Sergeant Major of the Army Sgt. Maj. Kenneth O. Preston, lead the annual Army Birthday Run at Fort Myer, Va. in 2009. (Photo Courtesy of U.S. Army/Adam Skoczylas, the Pentagram)

From a band of militias to a branch of the most formidable fighting force in the world, the U.S. Army celebrates 236 years of existance today. On June 14, 1775, the Continental Army was created by Congress a year prior to the Declaration of Independence as tensions began to rise in New England. A day later, George Washington was chosen as General and Commander in Chief of the Continental Army.

This clip from the Army’s YouTube channel was posted last year, but nicely encapsulates how the Army was formulated in just 45 seconds.

If you are a member of the Army, past or present, add any special plans that you may have to celebrate in our comments section. — Christian Pelusi, USO

Also: Celebrate ‘Old Glory’ and Flag Day With Five Fast Facts