#Rokerthon Complete! Al Roker Sets the Guinness World Record for Longest Televised Weather Forecast in Support of the USO

"Today" co-anchor Al Roker receives his Guinness World Records certificate. Screengrab from NBCNews.com livestream

“Today” co-anchor Al Roker receives his Guinness World Records certificate. Screenshot from NBCNews.com livestream

With six minutes to go in #Rokerthon, the expression momentarily drained from Al Roker’s face as his co-anchors piled into his small New York City studio, creating a din of noise over the livestream and momentarily blocking the camera’s view of the NBC “Today” co-anchor.

“I don’t think there are enough people in here,” Roker deadpanned. After 33 hours and change — and despite several jokes suggesting the contrary — he was still lucid.

And then he delivered more temperatures.

Roker — a USO tour veteran — set a Guinness World Record a shade after 8 a.m. EST Friday morning for the longest continuous televised weather forecast at 34 hours. He did it to raise awareness for the USO, asking a national audience, a litany of NBC affiliates and livestream viewers to visit his Crowdrise page, where he’d raised more than $70,000 for the organization by the time he went off the air.

Roker stayed on the air at NBCNews.com (simulcast on USO.org) save five-minute breaks he was allowed to bank for extended time off. Around 12:30 a.m. Friday, Roker signed off for his final extended break of the telecast, returning a little before 2 a.m.

He had a lot of help while he was on the air, too. #Rokerthon was often the No. 1 trending topic on Twitter, with thousands of viewers (including USO centers around the world) tweeting in questions like this about the weather to keep Roker’s forecasting streak alive:

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Rokerthon! Fresh Off his USO Tour, NBC’s Al Roker Attempts to Set a Guinness World Record

NBC's Al Roker headlined the "Today"/USO Comedy Tour in Afghanistan last month. USO photo by Fred Greaves

NBC’s Al Roker headlined the “Today”/USO Comedy Tour in Afghanistan last month. USO photo by Fred Greaves

USO tours look fun, and they are. But they’re also grinds for the celebrities and crews involved in flying across the world and putting on the shows for America’s deserving service members.

Al Roker experienced one of those whirlwind tours last month, when he headlined the “Today”/USO Comedy Tour’s one-day, multi-show effort at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. Now, he’s right back at it, hosting what NBC is dubbing Rokerthon: his effort to set the Guinness World Record for longest continuous weather report while also raising funds for the USO.

“The idea that you can put a smile on [the faces of troops] … that’s why you’re doing it,” Roker said of his October USO tour to Afghanistan. “Their face lights up. And you’re like ‘wow, I am making a difference for these people.’”

Roker kicks off his effort tonight at 10 p.m. on today.com and will attempt to stay on the air across NBC’s different platforms reporting about weather until 8 a.m. Friday. If he does it, his 34-hour stint will break the current record of 33 hours by a Norwegian meteorologist in September.

As a central part of his record-breaking effort, Roker is asking people to contribute to his Crowdrise page, which is raising funds for the USO.

According to Today’s website, you can participate via social media by sending weather questions, photos and lines of encouragement to keep Roker going by using #Rokerthon.

(And speaking of world records, the USO set a Guinness mark of its own earlier this year.)

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The Challenge of Sharing: For Caregivers, Opening Up isn’t Always the Easiest Thing

Virginia Peacock, an Elizabeth Dole Foundation Fellow, laughs during a presentation Thursday at the USO Caregivers Conference in Fayetteville, North Carolina. USO photo by Eric Brandner

Virginia Peacock, an Elizabeth Dole Foundation Fellow, laughs during a presentation Thursday at the USO Caregivers Conference in Fayetteville, North Carolina. USO photo by Eric Brandner

FAYETTEVILLE, North Carolina—When Virginia Peacock’s husband David meets another wounded combat veteran, he asks them where they were Medevaced from.

He could have been the guy on the flight taking care of them.

Now, Virginia’s the one taking care of him.

Virginia Peacock led a breakout session Thursday at the USO Caregivers Conference where she and other caregivers of wounded, ill and injured service members swapped experiences. As the current Elizabeth Dole Foundation fellow from South Carolina, Peacock devotes some of her time to advocating for caregivers’ rights and recognition. On Thursday, she reminded her peers how powerful it can be just to share their stories.

“The one thing that we are all really bad at is telling our own story,” Peacock said. “We had to be told over and over [during a lobbying trip to Capitol Hill] to stop telling our husband’s stories and start telling our own stories. … It’s a hard lesson to learn.”

The latest chapter in Peacock’s story is in its seventh year. As a registered nurse, she had a career she loved when David – a combat flight medic – was injured on his 11th and final post-9/11 deployment. His severe shoulder problems were the only aliments that stood out at first. But after a while, invisible wounds started surfacing. Memory issues. Balance problems. Suicidal thoughts.

Virginia said she tried to keep home life status quo, continuing her full-time nursing career while also caring for a now-injured husband and a young son. But with so many new challenges, her own cloud of depression set in.

She left that job and started rebuilding her family life. Now in a much better place (and back to work as a pediatric nurse with more flexible hours), she is sharing resiliency lessons with other caregivers and raising awareness for their cause.

At the top of her list: teaching caregivers to share their stories not only with political change agents, but also with someone who supports them.

“You’ve got to find your person who gets it [to share your stories with],” she said.

Building Confidence

Steve Shenbaum

Steve Shenbaum

Steve Shenbaum makes people have fun.

It’s not forced. It’s friendly.

“That’s wack,” he said in the middle of his first group game at Thursday’s USO Caregivers Conference, pausing to chuckle at himself.

“I just said wack in a presentation,” he said, momentarily breaking character and drawing belly laughs throughout the room. “Bucket list!”

Shenbaum, who founded gameon Nation in 1997, has been motivating and entertaining at USO Caregivers Conferences since the event’s inception.

It may seem counterintuitive to try to bring people who are so used to passionately advocating for an injured loved one out of their shell. And most times, he finds willing participants. But the live-action parables he brings to the group with games like 1-2-3, Dimmer Switch and Expert Speaker both lighten the mood and make caregivers think about how they’ll calibrate their attitudes and communication approaches when they get home.

“You know what’s fun?” Shenbaum asked the group “Fun is hiding and being found. Fun is taking a risk and not being bonked.”

Quotable

“Sometimes you’ve got to stop chopping wood to sharpen the ax.” –Army Col. Ron Stephens, commander of Womak Army Medical Center, addressing the general session at the USO Caregivers Conference on the importance of taking time for oneself.

$11 for 11/11: How You Can Have a Direct Effect on Troops This Veterans Day

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The USO is about giving simple things to the troops and military families who need us most. A snack while traveling. A listening ear in a time of crisis. Providing a happy memory — or just a moment of escape — in a harrowing time.

For just $11, you can create experiences like these this Veterans Day:

Find out more at USOmoments.org.

Brad Pitt, Jay Leno, Shia LaBeouf and Other Celebrities Stop by USO Centers

Was that Brad Pitt? And Jay Leno? And Shia LaBeouf? If you were at the right USO centers last week, the answers were yes, yes and yes.

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Pitt and LaBeouf, along with “Fury” co-stars Logan Lerman, Michael Pena, Jon Berntha and “Fury director David Ayer visited with wounded warriors at the USO Warrior and Family Center at Bethesda on Oct. 15. You can see the full album here.

Comedian Jay Leno stopped by USO Fort Campbell on Oct. 17.

Comedian Jay Leno stopped by USO Fort Campbell on Oct. 17. USO photo

Meanwhile, longtime TV star Jay Leno — fresh off co-headlining the “Today”/USO Comedy Tour to Afghanistan — stopped by USO Fort Campbell on Friday morning to mingle with the troops.

6 Things You May Be Surprised to Find Inside a USO Airport Center

Arrivals and departures boards inside the USO at JFK International Airport in New York, so troops and families don't have to guess about their flights. USO photos

Arrivals and departures boards are located inside the USO at JFK International Airport in New York, so troops and families don’t have to guess about their flights. USO photo

If you’ve served long enough, you know this drill: You’re in between flights and need a place to rest. Your bleary eyes scan the airport directory and find a USO center. You trudge down the terminal, sign in, drop your luggage, and look for a comfy chair where you can doze off.

For some troops and family members, rest is all they want or need. But for those who seek more, there’s often something special most visitors didn’t realize the USO had.

1. Video games: You’d expect our larger, on-base centers to have video games. But many of our airport centers — like two of our newer locations at Nashville International Airport and JFK International Airport in New York — have gaming systems hooked up to flat-screen monitors, too, just waiting for button-mashing troops to drop by.

2. Free sports tickets: These are rare. But if you’re a local, it never hurts to keep an eye out. Just ask Jessica Nash, who once received a pair of free tickets to a St. Louis Rams game after dropping by the USO of Missouri’s Lambert-St. Louis International Airport center. Many USO centers have relationships with area pro sports teams and occasionally get free tickets, which they distribute according to their own policies.

3. Theater-style rooms: Not every airport USO has one, but it’s a treat at those that do. The USO of Georgia has a narrow-yet-comfortable theater-style are at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport and USO of North Carolina’s Raleigh-Durham International Airport center features a plethora of cushy chairs that surround the large-screen televisions, just to name two.

4. Sandwiches: You expect coffee and snacks at USO centers. Those are USO staples. But did you know several USO centers have donation deals with airport food vendors? Depending on location (and the arrangement) those vendors may donate sandwiches, salads and more to USO centers for troops who stop by looking for a quick bite to eat.

5. Flight status boards: Worried about missing your plane? Relax. Some of our centers — including USO Las Vegas at McCarran International Airport — have arrivals and departures boards so troops and families in transit can stay informed.

6. Free neck pillows: OK, so this is an exclusive. But thanks to the generous donations by the local chapter of the World War II-era service group WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) troops and family members stopping by USO of San Diego’s Neil Ash Airport Center can pick up a free neck pillow while supplies last.