Deployed Guardsman Witnesses Birth, Builds Relationship with Child, Thanks to USO

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When his Marine father deployed during Desert Storm, 3-year-old Joseph Rainbolt had no idea he would one day nearly miss moments with his own child.

“He was in Saudi Arabia for nine months when I was only 3, so I can only imagine,” said Rainbolt, now a 26-year-old sergeant in the Louisiana National Guard who might have missed the birth of his first child had it not been for the USO.

Knowing his wife Brittany would be giving birth just five months into a year-long deployment, Rainbolt told the USO and his command of his situation when he arrived in Afghanistan. When she went into labor, the USO set him up with an Internet-connected computer and Skype.

“I was able to stay [at the USO] for hours and be with my wife and see my daughter,” he said.

April Rose, now 8 months old, didn’t just get to see her father the day she was born. Rainbolt also took advantage of the USO’s Tiny Tots program and the USO/United Through Reading Military Program for the seven months that followed, allowing him to keep a presence in his daughter’s life.

“The [Tiny Tots] gift bag was fabulous,” said Brittany Rainbolt, a 26-year old high-school English teacher. “It came with some really awesome stuff. There’s some soap in there, a USO bib, a onesie and some other general baby care products. We used all of it.”

In fact, little April-Rose has even worn the bib immediately before going on stage at a “Red White and Blue” beauty pageant, where she took first place.

“It’s her lucky USO bib,” Brittany Rainbolt said. “United Through Reading was also fabulous. We got so many books for April before she was born and after she was born and I think hearing his voice helped her to make a connection with him. When she saw him the first time she went straight to him. I was like, ‘go to Daddy’ and she held out her little arms for him. It was so cute.”

“Being away was really hard,” Rainbolt said. “As National Guard, I’m usually home. Being away is not my thing. But through the USO we definitely got to have a relationship together.

“I got to talk to her every day, not just every now and then,” he added. “We’ve come a long way since the ‘80s and ‘90s. The USO was great in helping us be able to keep communicating. Even though I wasn’t there, I still got to feel like I was involved in her life, and that meant everything to me.”

USO, New England Revolution Honor Troops at ‘Salute to Service’ Match

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FOXBOROUGH, Mass—On the bicentennial weekend of Francis Scott Key’s “Star-Spangled Banner,” the USO was invited to Gillette Stadium to display it’s own red, white and blue standard: a Guinness World Record-breaking flag.

The USO Every Moment Counts Flag, which shattered the Guinness World Record for most signatures on a flag at 115,405, was displayed during the New England Revolution’s match against the Montreal Impact.

Designed as the ultimate thank you note to troops and military families, the 80-foot-by-120-foot, 350-pound flag boasts signatures from Americans in all 50 states and seven other countries.

“This was a once-in-a-lifetime thing,” said USO New England volunteer T.R. Collins, who started with the USO when her son went off to college. “The USO puts me in the heart of Active service members and lifting their spirits actually comes back to me tenfold.”

The flag was unfurled at halftime by more than 100 USO New England volunteers amidst a summer downpour while Tennessee Air National Guard Tech. Sgt. Angie Johnson and the USO Show Troupe performed for the crowd. Nearly 3,000 police, fire, EMS personnel, active duty service members, reservists and family members from all five branches of the military were in attendance.

After the match, New England Revolution players took the time to meet with troops and families, signing autographs and posing for pictures.

The next stop on the flag’s tour is in Dover, Delaware, at the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway on Sept. 28.

For more information on the USO’s Every Moment Counts campaign – which rallies Americans to show their support for troops and their families – visit USOmoments.org or join the conversation on Facebook or Twitter using #USOmoments.

Video: USO Officially Opens Revamped Center at Boston Logan International Airport

BOSTON–The USO has had an active presence at Boston Logan International Airport for over 30 years, so when it came time for the airport to renovate, it allowed the USO to relocate and design a larger space to accommodate the needs of traveling service members.

“We are proud to be able to provide the USO with this new, larger space as they continue their important work supporting our troops and their families,” said Edward Freni, Director of Aviation at Massport.

At nearly twice the size of the previous USO space at Logan Airport, the new center is approximately 1,400 square feet and offers a large seating and living room area as well as an expanded refreshment counter, luggage storage space and food and supplies. New amenities include a space for military families traveling with children — which includes hands-on activities, games and reading materials — a recreation room where troops can play video games, board games and card games, and a designated charging area for personal electronic devices.

“At this new USO center, you will get a glimpse of how today’s USO meets the changing needs of a changing military” said Dr. J.D. Crouch II, USO President and CEO. “Most important is that the extra space that will permit our dedicated USO of New England team to accommodate more troops and families at one time.”

Unveiling A Record: USO Presents its Guinness World Record-Setting Flag

The USO traveled to The Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati on Thursday to unveil its Guinness World Record-breaking flag. The USO recently shattered the Guinness World Record for most signatures on a flag with 115,405.

Measuring 80 feet by 120 feet and weighing in around 350 pounds, the flag is a prime feature of the USO’s Every Moment Counts campaign and serves as a visible expression of gratitude for all that America’s troops and their families have done for our nation.

People from all 50 states and seven total countries signed the flag. But if you weren’t one of them, there’s still a chance to say thank you by sending a message here.

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Support Coming in WAVES: WWII Community Group Distributes Neck Pillows to Military Travelers at USO San Diego

WAVES members have made roughly 2,000 neck pillows for troops and families who visit the USO Neil Ash Airport Center. USO photo

WAVES members have made roughly 2,000 neck pillows for troops and families who visit the USO Neil Ash Airport Center. USO photo

You know those nifty neck pillows they sell at the airport? Well, if you’re a service member traveling through the San Diego International Airport, you may be able to score yourself a hand-crafted version sewn by a World War II-era female veteran for free.

Taking the lead from their counterparts in the Dallas area, a group of industrious female veterans known as WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) have been hand-sewing thousands of neck pillows to give out for free to service members as they pass through USO of San Diego’s Neil Ash Airport Center.

“It all started when we saw the WAVES in Dallas doing it, and at first we asked for the pattern so we could join their effort,” said Barbara Ellis, one of a small group of WAVES remaining in the San Diego chapter. “But then we asked ourselves why we weren’t just making them for the local USO, since there’s so many military here in the San Diego area.”

Ellis, who joined the Navy in 1954, is one of the younger ladies in the chapter. She helps to organize, plan and pull together the materials necessary to create the pillows. After collecting donated fabrics from volunteers at the USO of San Diego, the WAVES purchase filler and thread from the local Wal-Mart and then form up into an assembly line and turn out the pillows one at a time.

Ellis said the WAVES have distributed thousands of neck pillows in all shapes and sizes – yes they even make small ones for toddlers and even smaller ones for babies – to military families from around the world since starting the project in April 2012.

“USO San Diego strives to provide comforts of home for our traveling service members,” said Judy Forrester, President and CEO of USO San Diego. “Through our partnership with WAVES, we are able to distribute over 2,000 comfy travel neck pillows, handmade with care using fabric donated from the supportive San Diego community.”

Each week the ladies deliver approximately 20 more hand-made neck pillows to the center.

“We are always in need of fabric,” Ellis said, “and the filler costs money, too, so any help we can get would always be appreciated.”

‘I didn’t even know I had PTSD': Def Leppard’s Rick Allen Talks About Mental Health During Tour that’s Raising Money for the USO

Def Leppard drummer Rick Allen didn’t let a life-changing obstacle derail his career. Not that it wasn’t hard. Allen lost his left arm in a car accident on New Year’s Eve 1984. But as he shares in this video, it was the battle against post-traumatic stress disorder that lasted long after his physical rehab.

Allen and Def Leppard are currently touring with KISS. The bands donating a portion of the proceeds to the USO and other military non-profits that help transitioning troops.

You can see the guys from KISS talking about their commitment to helping veterans get hired in the video below. And check out KISS’s website for military discounts at their remaining tour stops this summer.