Trio of NFL Players Visit USO Warrior and Family Center at Fort Belvoir for P&G Event

Photos from last week's meet-and-greet with NFL players at the USO Warrior and Family Center at Fort Belvoir, Va. USO photos

Photos from last week’s meet-and-greet with NFL players at the USO Warrior and Family Center at Fort Belvoir, Va. USO photos

FORT BELVOIR, Va.—A buzz was in the air Thursday as 200 military families at the USO Warrior and Family Center at Fort Belvoir awaited the arrival of three NFL players. Cheers erupted as a trio of wide receivers – the Baltimore Ravens’ Steve Smith, the New England Patriots’ Brandon Lafell and the Washington Redskins’ Andre Roberts walked into the room.

The players’ appearance was due in part to long time USO Partner, Procter & Gamble. In a joint promotion with the Defense Commissary Agency, Procter & Gamble will be awarding nine ProCamps to bases this summer. ProCamps are sports camps led by professional athletes that are designed to teach basic skills and teamwork to kids in kindergarten up through eighth grade. Procter & Gamble is presenting this program under their Family Unit platform, which is a partnership with the USO to provide resources, information and offers to military families.

“This summer, 1,500 kids on military bases are going to have the opportunity to play and learn from some of the best NFL players,” said Barbra Kelly, Proctor and Gamble’s Senior Marketing Manager, Shopper Based Marketing. “This is a once in a lifetime experience.”

The players spent an hour signing autographs, talking with troops and taking pictures. Sgt. 1st Class Shakeisha Cheeks, who brought her children to the event, said she’s attended several events at the center.

“The USO is so supportive of military families,” Cheeks said. “Events like this are great. We like to come out and have fun. Since we’ve been here, we’ve been to over 50 or 60 USO events. The USO is really doing great things for military families.”

-Katie Zeller

Volunteers Add Healing Touch at USO Warrior and Family Center at Fort Belvoir, Va.

FORT BELVOIR, Va.-The USO Warrior and Family Center here serves a unique community, and couldn’t operate without a cadre of trained volunteers. The center caters to wounded, ill and injured troops and their caregivers and families recovering from both visible and invisible wounds of war.

“Our volunteers here are amazing,” said Pam Horton, Director of USO Warrior and Family Centers. “There is not a chance we could have done a tenth of what we’ve done if they hadn’t been here.”

The USO is proud to celebrate National Volunteer Week. Our 29,000-plus volunteers donate roughly 1.5 million hours of service each year. They’re the reason the service members and their families who walk through our doors more than 8 million times each year feel welcome.

USO Warrior and Family Center at Bethesda Opens its Doors

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BETHESDA, Md.-After a year of construction and several years of planning and fundraising, the ribbon was finally cut today at the Warrior and Family Center at Naval Support Activity Bethesda - the home Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

The center – which is the sister structure to the USO Warrior and Family Center at Fort Belvoir, Va. – opens to troops and their families and caregivers tomorrow and will provide a much-needed home away from home for wounded, ill and injured troops and their families and caregivers living on the installation.

At the ceremony today, more than 200 Department of Defense members and officials, donors, special guests, and recovering troops and their family members helped cut the ribbon and tour the grounds of the new center. Check out the photos above from the event!

USO Warrior and Family Center at Bethesda, Md., to Open Next Week

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BETHESDA, Md.-The culmination of years of work is just one weekend away.

The ribbon will officially be cut Tuesday at the USO Warrior and Family Center at Naval Support Activity Bethesda - the home Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. More than 100 Department of Defense officials, donors, special guests, and – of course – recovering troops and their family members will attend.

The center – which is the sister structure to the USO Warrior and Family Center at Fort Belvoir, Va. – will be a much-needed home away from home for wounded, ill and injured troops and their families and caregivers.

Check out the photos above, take a look at the work this of our generous partners - like A. James Clark and Northrop Grumman – who made the building possible and see this item on the NFL Sports Lounge we published earlier this week. And don’t forget to check USO.org on Monday and Tuesday for coverage of the opening.

–USO Story Development

On TV Tonight: Walking With the Wounded South Pole Expedition Gets a Primetime Slot on NBC

If you’re looking for something uplifting, click over to NBC this evening at 8 p.m. EDT and check out “Prince Harry’s South Pole Heroes,” a documentary that followed last December’s Walking With The Wounded trek to the South Pole.

The dangerous trek featured three teams made up of troops injured in the recent wars. The USO sponsored one of those service members – former Army Sgt. Margaux Mange – who was injured in Iraq in 2006.

“The experience has opened new doors for me,” Mange said earlier this week. “And the USO, from Iraq to the South Pole, has always been there for me and I know they will continue to be there for me in the future. Thank you so much.”

As a prelude to tonight’s event, you can watch Mange tell her story about battling back from injuries in this November 2013 clip: 

Troops Still Battling PTSD, Other Invisible Wounds 11 Years After Start of Iraq War

The United States dropped the first bombs of the Iraq War 11 years ago today. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Army.

The United States dropped the first bombs of the Iraq War 11 years ago today. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Army.

The United States dropped the first bombs of the Iraq War 11 years ago today.

That war is over, but many troops who fought there are now waging personal battles at home. While thousands suffered physical wounds, the nightmare of war is refought in the minds of hundreds of thousands of troops daily as they suffer with traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“One of my friends said, as she put it, that her husband, he didn’t die, but he didn’t come home,” said Nicole James, wife of former Marine Sgt. Jesse James, who deployed to Iraq twice and deals with PTSD and other aftereffects of several blasts. “He’s a completely different guy. It’s a grieving process in accepting that it’s not him. … You have to go through that and accept that it’s not going to be him, so you can move on toward accepting who he is now and working forward and making progress on it.”

The USO has several programs and services for troops who served in Iraq who are wrestling with the daily impact of PTSD while trying to transition to civilian life.

  • The USO Warrior and Family Center at Fort Belvoir, Va.: The USO built the first-of-its-kind Warrior and Family Center on the Fort Belvoir medical campus so troops receiving recurring treatment there could have a place to start their transition with programs like USO/Hire Heroes USA Transition Workshops, art therapy offerings like Combat Paper, and more. Troops there can also use the facility to relax, watch TV or grab a snack.

  • Stronger Families Oxygen Seminars: This valuable program brings couples together in a classroom setting to help improve their relationships. Check out this clip for a great story from Stronger Families Executive Director Noel Meador:

  • USO Caregivers Conferences: Caregivers of wounded warriors need help, too. The USO has held multiple Caregivers Conferences to address concerns like compassion fatigue and helping kids deal with drastic life changes.

  • Adaptive sports: Many recovering service members find solace and regain their confidence on the playing field. The USO supports endeavors like the Marine Corps Trials and Warrior Games. Take a look: