Channing Tatum, Adam Rodriguez and Nick Zano Wrap USO Tour to Afghanistan

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Actors Channing Tatum, Adam Rodriguez and Nick Zano wrapped the USO’s first 2015 entertainment tour to Afghanistan over the weekend. The six-day handshake tour was the first USO experience for the trio, which spent time with more than 1,500 troops, including these folks from Oregon.

In all, Tatum, Rodriguez and Zano visited seven bases downrange and the U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan.

“My trip with the USO was a once-in-a-lifetime window into the sacrifice and duty that these brave soldiers and their families devote every day to,” said Tatum, whose “Magic Mike XXL” will hit theaters this summer. “Thank you from the bottom of my heart for the experience. Safe travels home and until then, keep holding it down there and in every other place that flies the stars and stripes.”

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What’s Your Favorite USO Moment? Share it With Us Today

The USO creates roughly 30,000 moments for troops and their families around the world every day. From airports to far-flung bases. From last-second weddings to surprise homecomings. From connecting dads-to-be from Afghanistan into the delivery room to taking care of the families of the fallen. Wherever our troops and their families are, the USO is always by their side.

So what’s your favorite USO moment? Tell us today at usomoments.org.

New Center at SeaTac Airport Allows USO Northwest to Better Serve Troops and Families

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USO Northwest staff and volunteers welcomed community officials and local military leadership for the grand opening of their new 7,500-square-foot center in the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in Washington state on Wednesday.

Home to one of the largest concentrations of military personnel in the United States, USO Northwest provides critical support to more than 600,000 active-duty military and their families annually in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Alaska.

Efforts to transform the center began in 2012 with the launch of USO Northwest’s Enduring Support Campaign. That push brought in donations from more than 400 groups, businesses and individual donors, ultimately netting over $1.5 million in funds and in-kind gifts to make the expanded center possible. Three of the largest contributors were the Employee Community Fund of Boeing Puget Sound, the USO Northwest Board of Directors and the Ellison Foundation.

“This was a day that I could only dream about,” said Hossein Khorram, Treasurer of the USO Northwest Board of Directors. “When we started going through the process a few years ago, this was still just a dream. The money was hard to come by, but we got amazing donors who really stood up to make this all possible.”

From a full-service kitchen to an enlarged luggage storage space and enhanced entertainment amenities, the new center will provide a touch of home for service members and their families as they travel through the SeaTac Airport and beyond. The center will continue to offer travel assistance, sleeping facilities, showers, meals and snacks, a lounge, gaming equipment, free Wi-Fi, laptop commuters and a separate family room.All of that will now be delivered in a more comfortable and inviting space.

Highlights of the new center include the installation of the original teakwood decking from the World War II battleship USS Colorado (BB-45) as well as a Patriot Wall Brick Campaign, which features over 300 commemorative bricks from loved ones to those who previously or currently serve in the military.

“This is where it happens and this is the pointed edge of the spear of the USO,” said Dr. J.D. Crouch ll, CEO and President of the USO. “This is where we meet the men and women and their families who we are dedicated to supporting. It’s places like this all around the world … which allows us to always be by their side.”

When the ribbon was finally cut, local contributors and military personnel were invited to tour the new center,  which is located above the Delta Air Lines ticketing counters on the mezzanine level. Port of Seattle Port Commissioners Bill Bryant and Courtney Gregoire and President of the Employee Community Fund of Boeing Puget Sound Robert Malone also spoke at Wednesday’s ceremony.

“Our organization made a commitment almost three years ago to never allow another military member to be turned away at SeaTac Airport because our center was too small. Today that commitment becomes a reality,” said USO Northwest Executive Director and retired Navy Cmdr. Don Leingang. “This new USO center will allow us to provide no less than the very best services to our military and their family members.”

With support from USO Northwest staff and volunteers, the new center will continue to be open to visitors 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

NASCAR Drivers Tony Stewart and Kyle Larson Take A Break to Visit Troops at MacDill Air Force Base

Stewart with fans.

Stewart with fans at MacDill Air Force Base.

Former NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart, NASCAR driver Kyle Larson and Daytona International Speedway President Joie Chitwood III made a USO tour stop to visit troops at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida, last week.

“It’s just a great opportunity for us to come spend a day with our military men and women [who] give us the opportunity to have the freedoms that we have,” Stewart said.

Along with meeting troops and their families, the group toured a KC-135 Stratotanker refueling aircraft, saw a working dog demonstration and got to try out MacDill’s state-of-the-art aerial refueling simulator

Check out the video.

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Why Hire a Veteran?

So why hire a veteran?

Hire Heroes USA’s Noah Thomas thinks the question should be “Why wouldn’t you hire a veteran?”

Thomas was at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in November helping put on a USO/Hire Heroes USA Transition Workshop when he stopped to talk with us about why potential employers should look to hire recent veterans.

“No matter if you’ve served two years, six months, 20 years, 30 years, a veteran has experienced a lot,” he said. “They’re resilient, they’re objective-oriented, they’re detail-oriented.

“They know how to work in diverse teams. And so what they can bring to the company is far beyond what you see on TV and movies with the [post-traumatic stress issues].

“[Veterans] bring everything from project planning, logistics, community engagement and they do it in a short timeframe and usually with not a lot of money.”

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Whether you’re a transitioning service member in need of a resume or a boost to your interview skills or an employer looking for some fresh talent, you can accomplish a lot at a USO/Hire Heroes USA workshop.

A Family Saved: USO/Stronger Families Seminar Leader Garrick Pang Shares One of his Favorite Moments

Garrick Pang, left, listens to Noel Meador speak during a Stronger Families presentation in 2012. USO photo by Dave Gatley

Garrick Pang, left, listens to Noel Meador speak during a USO/Stronger Families presentation in 2012. USO photo by Dave Gatley

Stronger Families’ Garrick Pang makes a difference.

As the nonprofit’s senior director of training and support, he travels the country conducting USO/Stronger Families Oxygen for Your Relationships seminars for troops and their significant others.

Here is one of his favorite stories about a family that was on the edge of breaking apart:

“It was a couple of years ago. I was down at Twentynine Palms Marine Corps Base and we were doing this particular class for wounded, ill and injured service men and women and their families.

And in the back of the room came in a young couple and we had a few extra spaces available and so they had opened it up to the broader Marine population. And this couple, I think, had been ‘voluntold’ to come. And you can just see kind of the tension between them when they walked in the room.

As we began and started sharing about the program and different elements of it, I could see that … this tension was starting to come to the surface more. In the program, I share a little bit about my own personal story and my own journey of what my wife and I had been through early on in our marriage.

At the end of the first day, they came up to me and … the wife said to me, ‘Your wife at year seven, that was me two weeks ago.’

And I turned to the young Marine and I said, ‘So what did you do in response to what she said?’ Because what happened to me was at year seven, my wife basically said, ‘I’m done. I can’t do this anymore.’ And this Marine said, ‘Well, I didn’t know what to say. So, I said, “Well, whatever.”‘

And what I had shared with the class that I had made a decision at that point that I needed to fight for my marriage. And so I turned to him and I said, ‘You are a Marine. And I believe that I don’t know you very well but I’m sure that when you set your mind to something, you make that your objective and you achieve it, am I correct?’ And with some pride, he said, ‘Yes, sir. That’s correct.’

And now, you’ve just heard your wife say to you, after less than two years of marriage, that while she said she was done, she really wants you to fight for your marriage.

I said, ‘Do you think you’re up for that task? Because I think you can do it if you set that as your objective.’ And again, with some pride he kind of sat up in his chair and he says, ‘Yes, sir. I think I can do that.’

Out the corner of my eye, I could see a smile kind of coming over her face. Well, they came back for day two and I could tell that there was already something that was different. And they finished, completed the training and at the end of the day, I sat down with them and I said, ‘So, tell me what happened here.’ And he said, ‘You reminded me of what’s important. And you helped us to go back to the beginning and really recognize that what we felt like was gone was really still there.’

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I followed up with them over the next four weeks.

I called them each week and again, less than two years married [with] a 5-month-old baby, they’d been deployed once, so they’ve been apart actually more than they been together. And he was ready to ship out in another month for another deployment.

So, I followed up with them and after that last call that I had with him, he said, ‘I want say thank you to you. Thank you to USO and to Stronger Families because I’m headed away for a deployment and I’m going to come back to my family. A month ago, I couldn’t have said that.’

And so to me, that’s really probably one of my favorite stories of a life – of a relationship – that’s been changed through the program.”