Auburn vs. Alabama Off the Field: Schools’ Theta Chi Chapters Compete to Support the USO

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Roll Tide? War Eagle? Now is your chance to support your favorite school and help the USO at the same time.

The famous SEC football foes have extended their rivalry to the nonprofit world. According to al.com, the Theta Chi chapters at both Auburn and the University of Alabama have created a competition to benefit the USO.

Participation is easy, and any fan around the world can do it. You can text either “USO Tide” if you support Alabama or “USO Tigers” if you support Auburn to 80888. The texts will add a $5 donation to your phone bill that will benefit the USO. (Standard text and data rates may also apply.)

Alabama senior John Anderson, a former Theta Chi chapter president, told al.com that the two chapters set a goal to raise $10,000 for the USO.

“We figured since college students are always on their phones, this would be an easy way for them to donate to a great organization,” Anderson told al.com. “However, we have also found that parents and other adults are just as willing to donate via a text message.”

J&J Speaker Shows Caregivers Road to Peak Performance at USO Conference

FAYETTEVILLE, North Carolina—Chris Jordan sees extremes all the time.

His job is to help people — businessmen, athletes, etc. — who put their bodies and personal relationships through great stress while trying to achieve big goals. As the Director of Exercise Physiology at the Johnson & Johnson Human Performance Institute, Jordan helps people with who often have little free time find ways to maximize their fitness routines, eating habits and stress levels in order to live healthier lives.

In November, he brought his skills to the USO Caregivers Conference to help caregivers of wounded, ill and injured troops come up with a plan on how to live more balanced lives.

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Jordan taught a breakout session titled “Connect with the Positive Physical Approach,” and also led a general session on how caregivers can incorporate healthier habits into daily routines.

“They do a very good job of taking care of everyone around them … but don’t do a very good job of taking care of themselves,” Jordan said. “But we know through our training that if you can train yourself to have more energy and increase your capacity to deliver, you can do more for those things and people who matter most to you.”

USO Guam Honored for Service to National Guard Troops

Troops and family members celebrate at a USO Guam homecoming celebration in April. USO photo

Troops and family members mingle at a USO Guam homecoming celebration in April. USO photo

They were there when they left. And there when they came home, too.

USO Guam got a big hat tip from the Guam National Guard this week, when it was presented the service’s Center of Influence Award for its work with troops and families during Operation Enduring Freedom. The award specifically covered USO Guam’s actions over the last two years of deployments, recognizing the center’s constant support of both Guam National Guard troops and their families through deployment and homecoming ceremonies, USO center services and additional family support.

The award was presented Sunday during an official retreat ceremony at Guam National Guard Headquarters in Barrigada, Guam.

This isn’t the first time the military has recognized USO Guam’s support. Read here about how USO Guam turned into a temporary hotel for 41 stranded Marines over the summer.

Messages from the Front: See What Troops Told the USO About Being Away for the Holidays

It’s hard for civilians to be away from home for the holidays. Now imagine serving in a war zone.

Friend of the USO Eric Raum traveled to the Mideast to talk to troops about what its like to be missing their families during the holidays. He also profiled how the USO gives those troops a little piece of home during a tough time through the USO Holidays for Heroes program.

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14 Quotes that Inspired Us Over the Last Year

We see inspiring things every day at the USO. Today, we’re reflecting on some of the inspiring things people told us throughout the last year.

Some of these are thank yous for what our amazing volunteers have done. Others are the words of those volunteers and donors who count helping troops not as a task, but as a privilege and an obligation. And some of these are directly from service members and military family members who benefitted from our programs and services in 2014.


1. “When you are leaving or are gone on deployment, you would give ANYTHING for just one more moment. Whether it’s just to hear their voice or it’s being able to see their faces, any moment possible is priceless and that is exactly what the USO has given service members, so thank you.”

–Sgt. 1st Class Tyler Arnold, a veteran of multiple combat tours who was honored by the USO and Hunter Hayes during a pair of fall concerts.

2. “My whole incentive when I’m at the USO is to try to treat people like I would want my son to be treated and taken care of.”

–USO of Arizona volunteer Michelle Selby, who kept the center open all night during a dust storm last year. Selby’s son also served in the military.

3. “As a soldier and as a husband, it’s nice to know that remembering those three little letters — USO — means that [my wife will] be taken care of wherever she is and wherever I am, and that’s huge for me.”

–Sgt. Arden Sellers, whose wife, Shanna, found refuge at the Liberty USO’s Philadelphia International Airport center when a flight cancellation left her stranded.

4. “I think it’s important that our service men and women and our veterans know that we love them and we do not take what they do for granted and I think it’s important that they know that, so I’ll continue to work with the USO as long as they’ll have me.”

–Country star Kellie Pickler, who has been on eight USO tours, including multiple trips to Middle East war zones.

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5. “I’m proud that we have Ladies Night. You can see a huge difference on the female soldiers’ faces, because we have a moment to ourselves.”

–Sgt. Rada Kalpee, who was volunteering with at USO Kandahar when we profiled USO Ladies Nights in July.

6. “I got to see my son — just seconds after he was born — I got to see him being cleaned up, being weighed, being measured; something I wouldn’t have been able to do if it wasn’t for the services offered by the USO.”

–Capt. Nick Whitefield, who used a USO Internet connection in Afghanistan to watch the birth of his son.

7. “There is not enough space on the feedback form to describe the impact the USO2GO program has had on my platoon and the boost in morale.”

–1st. Lt. Ben Lyman, whose platoon requested and received a USO2GO shipment at their forward operating base.

8. “I’m always critical … of charity organizations. The USO is one I don’t even have to think about. In fact, when I sent my boys off to their basic schools, the USO was part of my safety brief to them. I’d say, ‘Here’s where you’re flying and here’s where you’re going, and here’s the airports that have USO facilities, so stop in and use them.’”

–Retired Col. Hal Harrington on why he chose to donate to the USO.

9. “Before deploying, the only thing I knew about the USO was that they did care packages and they were in the airports. But then I go to Afghanistan and they’re in every airport that I went through. Fellow veterans, families, people who want to help and support our veterans and our military [were volunteering at each location], and these people loved us. They treated me like family at every stop. Then I get to Afghanistan and there’s a USO on my [forward operating base].”

–1st Lt. Beau McNeff, who created a surprise USO moment for his on “The Meredith Vieira Show” in September.

10. “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, who sent us this message when she signed the USO Every Moment Counts flag in 2014.

11. “My husband and I have spent countless hours enjoying USO locations in airports and military installations. Donating to the USO was our way of expressing gratitude to an organization that has always been there for us while also teaching our daughter a valuable lesson about giving.”

–Cherie Bell, whose family raised raised nearly $100 for the USO in lieu of gifts for their daughter’s first birthday.

12. “That was an extremely tough deployment for me, and that was a particularly tough time during that long deployment. USO provided a much needed shot in the arm. Thank you.”

–Navy Cmdr. Matthew Andrews, who wrote us a poignant email this fall.

13. “I think it’s extremely important to have the community and the different groups to lean on when your soldier’s deployed. It helps in the sense that you realize that you’re not alone.”

–Military spouse Ashley Sandgren on the environment USO Fort Drum created for spouses during her Army husband’s deployment.

14. “I think this will give someone a place to kind of sit back, reflect, relax, work on themselves just on a personal level — a worry-free zone in a sense.”

–Retired Army Sgt. Kevin Gatson on how the USO Warrior and Family Center in Bethesda, Maryland, helps wounded warriors stationed there heal.

How to Make the Perfect Care Package for Troops

A group of Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington-based airmen  help the USO distribute Girl Scout Cookies. Photo courtesy of the Department of Defense

A group of Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington-based airmen help the USO distribute Girl Scout Cookies. Photo courtesy of the Department of Defense

It’s easy to take the little things for granted. For most Americans, stocking up on snacks, baby wipes and Kleenex is as simple as heading to a convenience store.

But for troops stationed around the world — especially at overseas locations like the Mideast or Okinawa — stocking up on every day commodities can mean waiting on, or rationing from, care packages shipped from the United States. However, even the most thoughtful — and jam-packed — of care packages eventually runs empty.

Luckily, the USO is there to help.

Anyone who wants to create the ultimate box of goodies for the troops can do so. Remember, even just one package worth of supplies can brighten a service member’s day.

Step 1: Find a USO center

This is easy. A list of all our centers can be found here. Click the dropdown menus on the left side of the page to search for a center in the region you want to help out.

Step 2: Check in with that center before you buy

Before you gather supplies and seal that box, send your selected center an email to doublecheck that they’re able to receive care packages and ask them what sort of items troops at their location need most. They’ll help you get the right address to send your package to, too.

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Step 3: Fill up a box

We always defer to the individual centers’ knowledge (see Step 2) when it comes to knowing what troops need. No one knows our troops like the USO staff and volunteers on the ground. Still, we took the liberty of compiling a list of some of our downrange troops’ favorite things to receive in care packages:

  • Healthy snacks: Jerky, trail mixes, granola bars and fruit snacks
  • Drink mix packets: Gatorade, lemonade, iced tea and crystal light packets
  • Microwavable food: Easy Mac, popcorn, Cup O’Noodles, Chef Boyardee, oatmeal and other snacks that come in their own bowl (dining ware is scarce in Afghanistan)
  • Non-perishable food: Tuna cans or packets, fruit cups, peanut butter, Nutella, soups and other canned foods
  • Chocolate: Wait until the winter months to send chocolate, as it will melt in the mail if sent now
  • Toiletries: Travel-size shampoo, conditioner, body lotion, body wash, wet wipes and hand sanitizer (Please send these in separate boxes from food — no one likes shampoo-flavored oatmeal!)

Step 4: Don’t have the time? We can do it for you …

Everyone has something they’re passionate about. And if you’ve read this far, helping our troops is probably one of those things for you. But time can get in the way, especially during the holidays. If you still want to help troops, but can’t make it to the store to fill up a care package, the USO can take care of it for you through a donation to USOwishbook.org, where you can send items like comfort food packages, books, movies, video games and more.