Day 3 of the 12 Days of Wishbook brings us to a little-known USO program that’s a fan favorite for troops around the world.
Our troops love sports. And our generous donors – both on the national and local level – understand this, providing the USO with thousands of tickets and funds for professional and collegiate sports events year round. It could be as big as a major donor in Boston handing off a block of courtside seats to a Celtics game, a benevolent community member dropping their unused upper deck tickets at one of our centers, or – in the case of Jessica Nash – a surprise giveaway for unsuspecting troops and their families at the USO Missouri’s center at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport.
“They were great seats and made for a wonderful surprise to bring home to my husband,” said Nash, whose husband is an active-duty sailor. “It was fantastic. A really, really, nice surprise by both the USO and the person who donated the tickets.”
You can help bring a great surprise to troops and their families this holiday season the same way with just a few clicks.
Trevor Romain, center, has developed a host of kits to help military kids get through tough times. USO photo
The second day of Wishbook is dedicated to a group that can get lost in the shuffle.
Family resilience has become a major topic over last 12 years of deployments. This includes children in military families, who go can struggle through months of uncertainty while their parents are doing some dangerous work. To help these kids through the tough times, the USO partners with The Comfort Crew and the Trevor Romain Company to distribute a variety of kits tackling issues like deployment and reintegration, bullying and what to do if the unthinkable happens while their parent is serving in harm’s way.
As Romain explained during an April summit at the USO Warrior and Family Center at Fort Belvoir, Va., younger kids aren’t always psychologically equipped to deal with reintegration in a way their adult parents can understand.
“When children have come up to us after [presentations], really what they needed was validation of what they were going through, instead of somebody trying to fix it for them,” he said. “There was a young boy recently who came up to us and just started crying. I said ‘Are you OK?’ And he said, ‘I am now’ and turned around and walked away.”
“He needed that place to feel comfortable.”
This holiday season, you can help children in military families who are going through that same type of emotional journey by giving them the gift of a kit that lets them know they’re not alone.
Vice President Joe Biden – at the end of a diplomatic trip to Asia – dropped by Yongsan Garrison, South Korea, last weekend for a visit with service members. And despite the short notice, the USO was able to pull off a memorable meet-and-greet for hundreds of troops and their families.
“A highlight of the event was when [Biden] invited all the children to come up on stage to join him for his remarks,” USO Korea Area Director Tony Davis wrote in an email recap of the event. “Most of the kids had USO teddy bears tucked in their arms!”
The USO put on a picnic for nearly 500 troops and family members. The Eighth Army Band entertained the crowd while children had access to bouncy castles and a host of games. After speaking, Biden took time to mingle and pose for pictures with several attendees.
The 12 Days of Wishbook are upon us. This holiday season, thanks to USO Wishbook, you can give vital gifts to America’s troops serving in harm’s way with the click of a mouse.
Today’s gift – phone calls home – is simple, but it’s one of the most powerful things the USO provides for troops each year. Case-in-point: Alexander Carpenter’s story:
Alexander Carpenter with his daughter, Chloe, shortly after his third and final deployment as a Marine. Photo courtesy of Alexander Carpenter
I got back from a 12-day-out rotation. It was close to midnight in Ramadi. Our staff sergeant told us to clean our weapons and then we could shower, eat and have some time off. I cleaned my [weapon] so fast … because, my baby girl was to be born that day. I frantically cleaned my [weapon] and got a buddy to go the USO call center with me. (I skipped the chow and skipped the shower.) I called three or four different people and no one answered. I was so scared, I didn’t want to go back out without hearing my baby girl’s cry. Finally, I call one more time and I get an answer. She has been born!!! Ten fingers, 10 toes, healthy and kicking! … I shouted “I’M A DAD!” No one said shut up. No one told me to be quiet. But [the others in the USO] clapped and congratulated me. Tears streamed down my face. I spent six more months of patrols and firefights with my brothers by my side. I came back to the USO every 12 days to call home to hear my daughter. I made it home and saw my baby for the first time May 26, 2007 (she was born Dec. 2006).
I fought from that first phone call on not for oil, not for WMDs, not for Bush: I fought for my brothers to my left and right so we could all see our babies. The USO made that call possible for me. And to this day I have never said thank you. … Thank you USO.
You can give troops the same gift Carpenter received that December night in 2006 by clicking here. And check the USO blog every day from now through Dec. 20 to discover the other 12 Days of Wishbook gifts.
Two months after winning an online contest, USO volunteer Norm Hallowell watched as Pam Horton – manager of the USO Warrior and Family Center at Fort Belvoir, Va. – pulled his new Jeep Wrangler up to the curb.
Hallowell stood in front of the recently opened center Friday afternoon with a small group of USO staff and volunteers and received the keys to his new Jeep from USO of Metropolitan Washington-Baltimore Chief Operating Officer Cheryl Laaker Hall.
The contest was part of the USO’s ongoing relationship with Jeep, which include’s the automaker’s Operation Safe Return initiative.
Chief Warrant Officer 2 Eileen Smith’s eyes filled with tears. Capt. Bud Evans shared a long embrace with his son. No matter where you looked, one thing was clear: Liberty USO had created another USO Moment.
The Phillie Phanatic – in his Phanta Claus outfit – handed holiday stockings to two service members who recently returned from Afghanistan on Wednesday at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia. In each stocking was a free trip to Philadelphia Phillies spring training in Clearwater, Fla., including US Airways travel vouchers, hotel accommodations, an informal meet-and-greet with Phillies players and first pitch honors at a game. (Check out video of the event here.)
In addition to the surprise, Phillies personnel, Liberty USO staff and board members and host John Brazer assembled the final Operation Stocking Stuffer (OSS) care packages, which will go to troops serving overseas. The OSS shipments will bring USO Liberty’s care package total to more than 5,000 in 2013.