TEAM USO Still has Entries to the Biggest Marathons, Triathlons and Other Races of 2014

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Spring is finally here, and if one of your New Year’s resolutions was to finish a marathon, half-marathon or triathlon, you should be well into the latter part of your final training cycle.

What’s that? You haven’t started training? You haven’t signed up for a race yet? Well have no fear—TEAM USO is here!

With spots still available in the most popular races in the country, TEAM USO can help you select a race, put a fitness plan into place to get you out there in your go-fasters or tenny-runners in no time.

First step? Well, stretch, of course.

Next, visit www.TeamUSO.org/compete and select a race.

You can travel to the Big Apple for the New York City Marathon, swim across the frigid San Francisco Bay in the Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon or shout along with your favorite grunts at the Marine Corps Marathon. Whichever race you choose, TEAM USO has an online fundraising tool that makes it easy to send emails to friends and family asking them to support the troops by sponsoring you.

Race with TEAM USO to help make the lives of our brave servicemen and women and their families a little bit easier by providing programs and services through our USO centers worldwide.

Video: In the Thick of the Action at the Marine Corps Trials

The Marine Corps Trials – where wounded, ill and injured Marines and Corps veterans qualify for Warrior Games – kicked off today in Camp Pendleton, Calif. The USO of San Diego supports the competition, offering on-site volunteer help and other activities throughout the week. In this video, Camp Pendleton’s Marc Diaz takes us through what it means for these injured Marines to compete at the trials.

Photos: Scenes from the USO-Supported Marine Corps Trials at Camp Pendleton

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Adaptive sports have become a gateway to both recovery and normalcy for wounded, ill and injured troops. This week, the USO is supporting the Marine Corps Trials at Camp Pendleton, Calif., where wounded warriors compete in wheelchair basketball, sitting volleyball, track and field, swimming, archery and shooting for a chance to represent the Marine Corps in September at the 2014 Warrior Games in Colorado Springs, Colo.

-USO photos by Joseph Andrew Lee

Girl Scouts Give 731 Books to USO/United Through Reading Library at BWI Airport

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Without books to read, the USO/United Through Reading Military Program wouldn’t last a day.

That’s why huge kudos are in order for two Girl Scouts who received their Silver Awards recently after collecting 731 books for the United Through Reading library at the USO inside the Baltimore-Washington International Airport. The program – which the USO facilitates around the world – lets troops record themselves reading books aloud to their kids and then send a copy of that reading home to their family.

Girl Scouts Grace Kinnear and Maeve Hall hosted a lemonade stand, asked for donations at their school book fair and even solicited support from local businesses in order to meet their goal.

Grace’s grandfather, Jim Kinnear, was a motivating force behind the project. The girls were introduced to USO of Metropolitan Washington-Baltimore through Jim’s work as a volunteer and were given a tour of the BWI center when they dropped off a cookie donation. This spurred their idea to replenish the United Through Reading library there.

When Grace and Maeve arrived with a cart full of books Jan. 27, they had an entourage of nearly 30 family members, including parents, siblings, aunts, uncles and grandparents. Even the principal of their school came to celebrate their service. It was an uplifting scene as family and friends gathered around for the presentation, teary with pride for the girls and our troops.

–Story gathered by Lauren Hebert, USO of Metropolitan Washington

Birthday Buddies: USO and Facebook Keep Troops Connected Downrange

Troops use Facebook at a USO center in 2012. USO photo

Troops use Facebook at a USO center in 2012. USO photo

Today is the USO’s 73rd birthday. As we passed the cake around at our centers, we realized there’s another birthday relevant to the military community taking place.

Facebook turns 10 years old today. And while you may not see the connection right away, our troops surely get it each time they walk into a center downrange.

Jose, a veteran from San Diego was quoted in a New York Times story today saying Facebook and the USO provided him a connection to his family he couldn’t have made any other way while stationed across the globe:

I have spent the last 13 years serving my country but the separation from family is an aspect that I have never mastered. Facebook allows me to see my children grow up even when I have to be away for my duties. It keeps me from being totally cut off from my family even if I am thousands of miles away with no cellular service. It is a crucial tool for military members and keeps us connected like no other service other than the USO [United Service Organizations] has. Walk into a USO overseas and Facebook dominates the screens. It’s for good reason.

It’s moments like these that count for troops and their families. Happy birthday, Facebook.

USO at Atlanta Airport Stays Open Around the Clock for Stranded Troops as Ice Storm Shuts Down Travel Across the Region

Trapped in the airport: Stranded troops found refuge at the USO of Georgia's Hartsfield Jackson Atlanta International Airport after Tuesday's ice storm paralyzed travel in the region. USO photo

Trapped in the airport: Stranded troops found refuge at the USO of Georgia’s Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport after Tuesday’s ice storm paralyzed travel in the region. USO photos

Army Pfc. Lindsay Rosel left her home in Illinois before sunrise Tuesday to attend basic training while her husband, Army Spc. Joseph Rosel, stayed behind with their two kids.

By the time she arrived in Atlanta, however, two inches of snow and ice had paralyzed the metropolitan area, stranding her along with hundreds of other troops and their families at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

It’s now Thursday, and many of them — including Rosel — are still there, being cared for by USO volunteers.

Some troops have been stuck at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport since Tuesday.

Pfc. Lindsay Rosel, center right, and other troops have been stuck at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport since Tuesday.

“We’ve been open and operating 24 hours per day, feeding and serving thousands upon thousands of nervous recruits, expectant mothers and unaccompanied families who were on their way to see their sons or daughters, brothers or sisters graduate from boot camp,” said Mary Lou Austin, CEO of USO of Georgia.

Austin – who hasn’t left the airport since the storm hit on Tuesday – went through a similar “snowpocalypse” nearly three years ago to the day. She knew she would be short-staffed because of the icy roads, so she called in reinforcement volunteers. One of them was Vietnam-era Marine Staff Sgt. Richard Hunter, who couldn’t wait to repay the USO for the help he received as a young lance corporal more than 40 years ago.

It took Hunter three hours to get to the Airport, but he was determined to help.  He quickly realized that it wasn’t the young soldiers who needed his help most, but instead the young wives and family members traveling with small children.

Many of those mothers had placed their diaper supply inside their checked luggage. Luckly, the USO had an emergency supply. And when they needed a place to lie down, Hunter constructed rest areas out of of body-length ottomans.

“They are stuck here for who knows how long,” Hunter said. “One had a son who was 2 years old, laughing and having fun — it was an adventure for him — but she also had [an infant], and was probably 8 months pregnant on top of that.”

Hunter was amazed at how quickly Army recruits jumped in to help out with the toddlers so these mothers could tend to their infants. But for Rosel, taking action was the natural thing to do.

“My group alone was more than 300 recruits,” she said. “For many of them, it’s the first time they’ve left home. They’re all so confused and lost because they haven’t had any training yet. I don’t even want to know what would have happened had the USO not been here. Honestly, they probably wouldn’t have eaten.

“If we had been trying to do all of this without the USO … we definitely would have had problems,” she said. “It would have been chaos.

“I’m so thankful we had the USO. They brought warmth and comfort to an otherwise cold and desperate situation.”