NEW YORK–Thanks to a generous donation from JetBlue, the USO of Metropolitan New York opened an airport center Wednesday in Terminal 5 of John F. Kennedy International Airport.
“JetBlue is excited to bring a USO Center back to JFK,” JetBlue Airways CEO Dave Barger said in a release. “We put the call out to our partners and they overwhelming answered. Gensler designed the space, Turner Construction Company built it, and a generous donation from the Port Authority [of New York and New Jersey] allowed us to provide a fully functioning lounge for the USO and our service people.”
The lounge features a plethora of donated items, including computers, TVs, gaming stations, iPads, snacks and even arrivals and departures boards so troops and families don’t have to worry about missing flights. The lounge is on the street level of Terminal 5’s arrivals area, directly across from baggage carousel No. 2.
The ribbon was cut Wednesday on a new USO of Metropolitan New York center inside John F. Kennedy International Airport. The center was donated by JetBlue. USO photos.
A row of computers is available for troops and family members to use in the new USO of Metropolitan New York center at John F. Kennedy International Airport.
Troops and guests mingle outside the new USO center, which was donated by JetBlue.
USO of Metropolitan New York CEO Brian Whiting, left, shakes hands with JetBlue CEO Dave Barger — who is also a USO of Metropolitan New York board member — at Wednesday’s ceremony. JetBlue donated the new center.
The USO Show Troupe hang out inside the new center, which features flight status boards so troops won’t miss their connections.
USO of Metropolitan New York CEO Brian Whiting speaks at the dedication of the new center.
Hunter Hayes was wrapping up a performance on NBC’s “Today” when a veteran reached out and put a pair of dog tags in his hand.
What the 23-year-old singer thought would be another of the positive fan interactions he’s become famous for on the country music scene was about to become a profound moment.
“He told me a brief story about how he had gotten [my] record while he was overseas and he had listened to it a lot,” Hayes said in a recent phone interview. “It essentially made me feel like I was doing something right with my music.”
Hayes will be looking to make more moments for troops this fall. He’s doing his first USO show Thursday night at Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia, and has also thrown his support behind the USO’s Every Moment Counts campaign.
“Every Moment Counts – I love those three words,” Hayes said. “I love that that’s what our current focus is. And the message is the fact that they give so much for us, that every moment with them, we never want to take it for granted.”
Hayes will be making moments on stage throughout his Tattoo (Your Name) Tour this fall, along with his exclusive USO show stops for American troops in Norfolk and Royal Air Force Mildenhall, England, on Oct. 11. The 2012 CMA New Artist of the Year and four-time Grammy nominee will equip concert attendees with wristbands from Glow Motion Technologies to create visually dramatic scenes around key parts of the show.
“Most of our shows that we’ve designed have always had a moment dedicated to our men and women in uniform,” he said. “I just feel really strongly that our appreciation needs to be shown in an extreme way.”
Today is Patriot Day, otherwise known as 9/11, the day America was attacked, or — for those in uniform or about to sign up — the day everything seemingly changed.
America’s military has gone through a lot in the 13 years since an al-Qaida plot killed nearly 3,000 U.S. citizens in New York City, at the Pentagon and in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Troops have gone on millions of individual deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan as a result of the events of Sept. 11, 2001. Still, as President Barack Obama reminded the country last night, the threat of terrorism — whatever group it’s coming from — continues to weigh heavily in world events. It’s something our brave men and women in uniform continue to fight to eradicate to the greatest extent possible.
And as long as they’re in uniform, the USO will be by their side giving them comfort on the frontlines, assisting their families back home and making sure they have the tools to achieve a bright future, whether they’re overcoming an injury or transitioning.
American Olympic swimmer Kate Ziegler poses with athletes at a USO-hosted pep rally Team USA Invictus Games participants on Friday in Herndon, Virginia. USO photo by Mike Theiler
The USO, Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden, the Washington Redskins and other star athletes banded together to give a warm farewell to Team USA’s Invictus Games participants over the weekend.
It all started with this tweet from Dr. Biden, who hosted a reception Thursday evening with her husband at the Vice Presidential residence for the wounded warrior athletes who’ll represent America in the London athletic competition that starts this week. USO President Dr. J.D. Crouch also attended.
According to the Invictus Games’ website, the competition — which is being promoted by Prince Harry — will “shine a spotlight on Armed Forces personnel and veterans who have put their lives on the line for their country demonstrating how they and their families are valued, respected and supported. For competitors, it will offer a memorable, inspiring and [energizing] experience in their journey of recovery.”
The USO held a pep rally Friday night in Herndon, Virginia, featuring American Olympic swimmer Kate Ziegler and video messages from NBA Hall-of-Famer and Navy grad David Robinson and U.S. Olympic swimming gold medalist Natalie Coughlin.
Then on Saturday, the USO helped send off the athletes in style from Dulles International Airport, with the help of the Washington Redskins.
September is National Suicide Prevention Month, an important time to shine the light on current and former troops who are struggling with depression and other invisible wounds.
Suicide in the military has become a huge issue over the last decade, with the rate of self-inflicted deaths by both active-duty troops and veterans reaching alarming levels.
But if you need help – or know someone who needs help – here is a list of places you can go:
- Military Crisis Hotline: Short of dialing 911 in a life-or-death situation, the military crisis hotline can be your first stop if you or someone you know is feeling severely depressed – even if they just need to talk about what they’re feeling. The phone number is 1-800-273-8255 and you can also chat with them online at militarycrisisline.net.
- PTSD Coach: The Department of Veterans Affairs has a website and app called PTSD Coach that aims to help troops and veterans manage issues like anger, sleep and trauma triggers.
- MilitaryMentalHealth.org: If you’re curious, Military Pathways offers free, anonymous online self-assessments.
- The VA: The Department of Veteran Affairs’ Mental Health page is filled with resources to address a variety of mental health concerns.
- Family readiness officers, family support groups and family support centers: Every branch of the military has family support services. These officers and groups are huge information resources. Contact your command to find out what groups are available for your family.
- Saving Lives Online Event: Military.com is hosting a Google Hangout on Sept. 18 where questions about suicide, PTSD and depression will be answered. You can submit questions in advance here.
The USO — through our programming partners — also offers a variety of resources to deal with post-traumatic stress and depression. Two such programs include:
- USO Caregivers Conferences: Held on or near different military installations around the United States, these USO conferences discuss caregivers’ issues like resiliency, communication, compassion fatigue and how to talk to children after a parent has been injured.
- USO/Stronger Families Oxygen Seminars: This Bothell, Wash.-based nonprofit helps couples – especially military couples affected by injuries or long separations – open the lines of communication. Their Oxygen Seminars have become a key partner program of USO Warrior and Family Care.
The return of the NFL season marks 48 years since the league started supporting America’s troops through the USO.
Starting with the first USO/NFL tour to Vietnam in 1966 — which featured Pro Football Hall-of-Famers Johnny Unitas, Willie Davis, Sam Huff and Frank Gifford — to March’s USO/NFL tour featuring Jimmy Graham, Pierre Garcon and Brandon Fields, the league has found ways to consistently show it’s appreciation to America’s troops.
“We are proud of our relationship with the USO that dates back more than 45 years and includes dozens of overseas visits to troops and trips to military hospitals nationwide,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell wrote in an email interview with the USO earlier this year. “The USO is an important partner for the NFL because our collaboration enables the NFL to give something back to the men and women in uniform that have given so much to all of us.”
Goodell became the first NFL commissioner to go on a USO tour when he traveled overseas in 2008.
“That USO tour was a privilege and had a profound impact on me,” he wrote. “The NFL’s support for the military had always been a priority, but it was really striking to see firsthand how much NFL football means to our service members overseas. Some of our players were traveling with me and we all came back with a renewed and strengthened commitment to our troops.”
Here are five ways the NFL has supported troops over the past few years:
- NFL Sports Lounge: The NFL pledged $2 million to build the NFL Sports Lounge inside the USO Warrior and Family Center on Naval Support Activity Bethesda, Home of Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. The center serves as a home away from home for severely wounded, ill and injured troops recovering on the hospital campus.
- Discounted tickets for troops: If you’re a service member who happens to be a fan of the Browns, Jaguars, Dolphins, Jets, Raiders, Chargers, Buccaneers or Redskins, you have the opportunity to buy discount tickets and/or stadium parking passes this season.
- Salute to Service: The USO is one of three military nonprofits the NFL supports through it’s November Salute to Service games. A donation is made to each nonprofit for every point scored in these games, and special camouflage gear worn by the players in Salute to Service games is also auctioned off to benefit the organizations.