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.

‘I Couldn’t Stop Smiling’: USO Creates a Night to Remember for a Military Couple with CMA Music Festival Tickets

A panorama of the CMA Music Festival on June 5 at LP Field in Nashville, Tennessee. Photos courtesy of the Hendricks Family

A panorama of the CMA Music Festival on June 5 at LP Field in Nashville, Tennessee. Photos courtesy of the Hendricks Family

The Hendricks family was due for some quality time, and the USO had just the ticket. Two of them, in fact.

Within weeks of Sgt. Richie Hendricks return from deployment, USO Fort Campbell announced on their Facebook page that a generous donor had given two passes to each night of the CMA Music Festival, the largest country music festival of the year in Nashville, Tennessee. The only requirement to win the tickets was to share a story about why going to the event was so important.

Sgt. Ritchie and Danielle Hendrickson

Sgt. Richie and Danielle Hendrickson

USO Fort Campbell Program Director Kelli Pendleton and others read dozens of stories from spouses seeking to give a gift to a significant other. The first set of tickets was given to the Hendricks family, whose story included the following passage:

“The reason I would love to win these tickets is to surprise my wife with a date night she has not had in over a year-and-a-half,” Hendricks wrote. “She has been a single mom that whole time due to a year deployment I just returned from in March and then immediately afterwards in April I was sent to Texas [to attend the Army’s Advanced Leader Course] and for a few months before I left we were training for deployment. My wife is the biggest country fan I know and she has made me into a huge country fan, and it’s the one genre of music we can listen to and just relax and have a good time. I would love to get these tickets and take her to the concert and give her the one night she has not had in such a long time and make her truly happy.”

The Hendrickses received a pair of tickets to the opening-night show on June 5.

“This was the perfect way to end a long year away from each other,” said Danielle Hendricks, a former soldier, military spouse and mother of two.“Being pregnant and not having your husband by your side through it was hard, plus raising a 2-year-old who was completely attached to her daddy was the hardest part because she didn’t understand why she couldn’t have her daddy with her.”

The Hendrickses have been married for five years, but 24-year-old Danielle, originally from San Bernardino, California, has been country music fan her whole life.

“CMA fest was amazing,” she said. “When we found out we were going to CMA fest I couldn’t stop smiling. I have always wanted to go but never lived close enough or had the opportunity.

“All the artists were better live then I imagined. The fans of country music are always so nice and cheerful it makes for a great experience to be surrounded by people who share the same love for country music.”

The pair of passes the Hendrickses received from the USO, courtesy of a donor.

The pair of passes the Hendrickses received from the USO, courtesy of a donor.

“The shows were absolutely amazing and completely shattered our expectations,” said 24-year-old Richie Hendricks of Monroe, Michigan. “The fans were so great and we were all immediately friends before the concert even started it seemed like.”

As it turns out, this wasn’t the Hendricks’ first — or even second — experience with the USO.

Richie was introduced to a USO volunteer before he even met his first drill sergeant due to a delay getting to boot camp, and USO Northwest rescued his growing family when they were caught in a long delay at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

“It was Christmas and we had our daughter at the time and she was under a year old and this USO had a nursery with cribs and a changing table and extra diapers,” Danielle said. “[It] was such a lifesaver that we had that available to us in such a tight spot.”

“They absolutely saved the day,” Richie said. “The staff was absolutely amazing and made my wife feel really comfortable with the whole situation.

“The USO has been absolutely amazing throughout my military career from literally day one,” he added. “We’re both grateful to be at home, together with our family, and even more grateful to have the support of our fellow countrymen who so generously gave these tickets to us through the USO. You made our year.”