Congress Helps USO Prep Warrior Care Packs for Wounded Troops

WASHINGTON—On the eve of the 9/11 anniversary, the USO and 75 members of Congress partnered to assemble 1,500 hygiene kits to be included in the USO Warrior Care Packs that will be given to wounded, ill and injured troops around the globe. These essential packs are designed to provide troops with the comforts of home during their recovery process.

“This is a very well-attended event and it’s great that we give an opportunity for our congressional leadership who really support the USO to help the troops overseas,” USO President and CEO Dr. J.D. Crouch II said.

The hygiene kits, which were assembled in the foyer of the Rayburn House Office Building, are filled with necessities  like shampoo, shaving items and toothpaste.

“It’s simple stuff, but it’s the stuff that when they step off the plane they don’t have,” Crouch said.

Click here to see photos from the USO service project on Capitol Hill. 

New Issue of On Patrol Goes Back to Basics

Fall Cover 2014The digital edition of On Patrol’s Fall 2014 issue is available now. Go to usoonpatrol.org to go “Back to Basics” with our nation’s military and its families.

We’ve got Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force boot camps covered, in addition to important stories about physical and fiscal fitness to help keep you and your bank account healthy.

Noel Meador and Rachel Harris from Stronger Families, a USO program partner, explain how their organization’s Oxygen for Your Relationships seminars help military couples strengthen bonds and improve communication. The magazine features more stories on wide-ranging topics like military food, the plight of caregivers after war, moving and adjusting to life as a military spouse.

These stories and more are just a click away.

TV That Backs the Troops: “Sons of Anarchy” Starts its Final Season

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The final season of “Sons of Anarchy” debuts tonight on FX at 10 p.m. EDT. And if you didn’t already have enough reasons to watch, you should know cast members have done multiple USO tours to support the troops, including appearances in the Pacific, downrange and stateside.

“I am so indebted to our outstanding men and women who singularly sacrifice their own time, talents and safety to protect and defend all that is dear to us as Americans,” actor Ron Perlman wrote in an email around the time of his 2012 USO tour stop at Twentynine Palms, California. “To have the opportunity to spend time with these great young people only begins to allow me the opportunity to communicate how special they are and how grateful we all are that they are who they are.”

“Sons of Anarchy” USO tour veterans include Perlman, Theo Rossi, Dayton Callie, Kim Coates and Mark Boone Junior.

Why I Signed: The Stories Behind the USO’s Guinness World Record-Breaking Flag

FlagRecord_out

When people get fired up about supporting America’s troops, they usually do it in a big way.

Today, the USO announced it shattered the Guinness World Record for most signatures on a flag, collecting 115,405 signatures earlier this year. Part of the Every Moment Counts campaign, the certified record breaks the previous mark by more than 82,000 signatures. The flag will be unveiled to the public on a three-city tour that starts Thursday at the Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati.

While 115,405 is a huge number, it’s also one with a lot of meaning. The USO asked those who signed the flag online to explain why they did it.

“My family’s military history goes back over 10 consecutive generations,” said online signer Beth Hish. “I did this for them and the thousands of others who serve and who have served our great nation.”

Hish said she directly benefitted from USO services as a teen when her family was stationed at Clark Air Base in the Philippines in the early 1990s. Those included a Billy Joel visit and performance at her high school.

“The concerts, school visits and activities brought a little piece of stateside comfort to a kid who was struggling to fit in to a new school [and] community. It was something familiar that I could connect with. USO programming [and] support is such a special gift to military members and their families. The least we can do is show our support in return. … That’s why I signed the flag.”

Others had similar stories:

“I signed the flag because I fully understand the importance of feeling support from all the non-military people in our great nation. I served eight years in the Army Signal Corps. … Every where I went the USO was there in some form or fashion … whether it was a recreation tent or a phone center and even on occasion seeing big-name musicians, actors and public figures all out showing their support for the U.S. military. I have not — nor will I ever — forget what our flag stands for and what it means to me. … Thank you USO for being there for all us.” –Former Sgt. Craig D. Matthews

“I signed the flag because I love America and I am proud to serve in the [Air Force] Reserve! The USO has provided me a place to rest and recuperate between flights on multiple deployments. I always feel welcome and safe.” –Carolyn Newhouse

“I signed the flag because all three of my sons have served or currently serve in the military. … [I am] very proud of my boys. The USO has been their for them when they transition from place to place. Thank you for all that you do for our military.” –Rosalee Morris

“My father is a Marine. My parents met at the USO. I was born and bred in the Marine Corps and work for the Air Force. I see every day what the men and women of our armed forces sacrifice for our country and am proud to support them in their endeavors. Thank you USO for your support … I might not be here if it wasn’t for your wonderful organization.” –Kim Chastain

(Editors note: Submissions lightly edited for style)

Tell Us What You Think (and Qualify to Win a $500 Gift Card) by Taking the Tell USO Sound Off Survey

Tell USO Share GraphicWe want your feedback!

From today through Oct. 1, the USO is inviting all troops and family members who currently use our services to participate in the 2014 Tell USO Sound Off Survey.

So why is this important? It’s pretty simple, really. The USO takes the feedback from the surveys and uses it to improve our operations and fill gaps in service. The responses are also used to judge which of our centers are standing out above the rest, and we honor those centers at the annual Tell USO Awards.

As a bonus, all participants who complete a survey will be entered into a sweepstakes where they can win a $500 Visa gift card for their time.

You can get started on the survey here.

Fresh off the Plane: USO Fort Drum Volunteers Try to Think of Everything When Welcoming Home Troops

FORT DRUM, N.Y.–After a long flight – and a longer deployment – a little Febreze sounds like a good idea.

While no one is recommending it as a substitute for proper hygiene, it’s a viable – and apparently welcome – quick fix for troops who’ve just returned from their deployment and don’t have the luxury of showering before reuniting with their families.

These are the things USO volunteers George and Alice Barton prepare for when they are among the first civilians to welcome 10th Mountain Division soldiers home.

George Barton receives a certificate of appreciation for his USO volunteerism at welcome home events from Army Brig. Gen. Michael Howard on July 15 in Fort Drum, N.Y. USO photo

George Barton receives a certificate of appreciation for his USO volunteerism at welcome home events from Army Brig. Gen. Michael Howard on July 15 in Fort Drum, N.Y. USO photo

“We tell them ‘OK, arms up for a shower before you see your family.’ And we give them a quick squirt,” a chuckling George Barton said July 15, a few hours before welcoming 293 10th Mountain troops back from an Afghanistan deployment. “They get a kick out of that.”

The Bartons have been greeting returning troops at Fort Drum for more than three years. George – a retired airman who also worked for U.S. Customs and Border Protection – welcomes troops with a hearty handshake the moment they clear customs while Alice helps facilitate the snack table, occasionally weilds the Febreze bottle and trades playful barbs with the men and women who’ve just returned from deployment. A host of other USO volunteers are on hand as well, doing everything from ringing a cowbell and yelling “Welcome home!” on the tarmac as troops stream off the plane to making sure those service members have plenty of distractions, coffee and snacks while they kill time before their official return ceremony.

USO volunteer Alice Barton mans the snack table as troops wait for their welcome home ceremony July 15 in Fort Drum, N.Y. USO photo

USO volunteer Alice Barton mans the snack table as troops wait for their welcome home ceremony July 15 in Fort Drum, N.Y. USO photo

“It’s like being a mother to every one of these kids,” Alice Barton said before the July 15 ceremony. “I’m glad they’re back. It’s wonderful.”

“I appreciate what they’ve done because I know what they’ve done,” George Barton said. “I’ve been over in Iraq and Afghanistan and I know what it’s like over there and I know what they’re going through. I was only over there two, three weeks at a time. They were over there for a full year. So I appreciate when they come home, they’re glad to see green again most of the time.”

The Bartons – who spend their winters in Las Cruces, New Mexico – volunteer at USO El Paso as well, working with the USO Mobile program.

“For me the retirement’s great,” George Barton said. “And working with the service people – you couldn’t be with better people.”