Google, USO Honor Military With Circus Performance

Screen Shot 2012-12-07 at 1.00.37 PMAs a part of Veterans Week NYC, the USO and Google teamed up with Big Apple Circus to provide laughs for more than 1,500 veterans, active duty service members and their families! This special performance opened with a full military color guard, with the ‘Star Spangled Banner’ performed by the USO Liberty Bells, and an had a guest ringmaster, Congressional Medal of Honor Recipient Paul Bucha of the U.S. Army. The show was held in NYC’s Lincoln Center and also streamed live on both YouTube and Google+.

Jenny Milewski, wife of SSGT Bryan Milewski  said “We were thrilled to have the opportunity to see the Big Apple Circus! Each family member had a favorite part—we had never been to the Big Apple Circus, but we are now going to make it a family tradition! This was one of the highlights of Veterans Week, and the USO has been so wonderful to our family.”

Watch some of the highlights with your family now!

Trevor Romain Addresses Bullying with Military Children

For some children, “back to school” can mean back to bullies.

Bullying is especially common for military children who, according to the Military Child Education Coalition, move about six to nine times from kindergarten to twelfth grade.

So where’s the good news? Trevor Romain is setting out to help military children in Europe identify and change bullying behavior! During his USO tour, Trevor will also discuss how to recognize the signs that your child is being bullied (or is bullying others), how to talk to your kids about bullying and ways families can cope with this important issue together.

You can hear Trevor’s thoughts about bullying behavior and how to handle it and how Trevor discusses these problems with military children in his interview with the Department of Defense Education Activity.

Bullying Statistics

  • About 71 percent of students report bullying as an on-going problem they face at school.
  • Over half of all students have witnessed a bullying crime take place while at school.
  • A reported 15 percent of all students who don’t show up for school report it to being out of fear of being bullied while at school.
  • About one out of every 10 students drops out or changes schools because of repeated bullying.
  • About 282,000 students are reportedly attacked in high schools throughout the nation each month.

As a nationally-recognized children’s motivational speaker and author, Trevor will also share the USO’s With You All the Way program with military children. Through a partnership between the USO and the Comfort Crew for Military Kids and the Trevor Romain Company, this program focuses on helping children and families cope with deployment, reintegration, and what happens when a parent returns from combat with wounds, both seen and unseen.

People often forget about the sacrifices and hardships that are unique for military children. At the USO, we understand the difficulties military children endure and we are so proud to partner with Trevor in our mission to support and connect with our military children around the world.

Thank you Trevor!

- Sarah Camille Hipp, Communications Specialist

With Parents Deployed, Military Toddlers Confront Monsters

He’s the baby on the block, but he already knows his A, B, C’s; his 1, 2, 3’s; and his Do-re-mi’s. He’s perpetually turned 3-and-a-half for nearly 20 years, but he’s still “got new shoes.”

For toddlers, he’s an A-List celebrity. For parents, he’s nothing short of a red felt superhero.

Elmo is back with the Sesame Street gang in the USO’s longest-running traveling show and the first-ever designed specifically for military families.

The Rood family and the Mowry family got a chance to meet the whole gang back stage, May 16, at the Wallace Theater on Ft. Belvoir. USO photo by Joseph Andrew Lee

Families like the Roods, who saw the Sesame Street/USO Experience at Fort Belvoir just three weeks before moving to a new duty station. Their 2-year-old son Deyvian may be too young to absorb what’s happening, but his older brother, 4-year-old Marques, will have to make new friends for the first time.

“I think it’s pretty cool how they incorporated a new character to talk about relocation,” said Army Staff Sgt. Jeffrey Rood, who came with his two sons and his wife, Kimberly, to see the show May 14 at the Wallace Theater.

Make no mistake—Marques and Deyvian are both diehard Elmo fans. But they might find they have a lot in common with the new kid on Sesame Street.  Her name is Katie, and she’s a 6-year-old military child moving to a new place. She is confronted with the same concerns of today’s real life military families like the Roods—the separation and anxiety of a deployment, and the stress of packing up every few years and relocating to a new base, a new city or a new country.

Ella Terry, 5-year-old daughter of Navy LCDR Ronald Terry, connects with Sesame Street character Katie, a 6-year-old girl who understands what it’s like to move to a new duty station. USO photo by Joseph Andrew Lee

Ella Terry is just 5 years old, and she likes that “Katie had a daddy in the military too.”

“I am a military child and you are a military spout (spouse),” she said, pointing to her mom, Beth, wife of Navy LCDR Ronald Terry.

“Ella has already moved from Maine to San Diego to Washington D.C. in just her first 15 months of life,” said Beth Terry. “And though the transitions were great and she had no idea it was happening, in a couple years we will move again, and I appreciate being able to remind her of Katie.”

Army Staff Sgt. Ryan Mowry is currently deployed to Afghanistan. His 2-year-old daughter, Keirah, attended the show with her mom, Crystal. At night, Keirah dances with her Rock and Roll Elmo doll and spins around giggling every time she hears him laugh. Her mom recalls doing the same thing when she was young.

“I remember learning so much from Sesame Street,” Crystal said. “Now, being able to watch her enjoy and grow up with the same characters, it is just incredible.”

Before the show, the Mowrys and the Roods had the chance to actually meet Elmo, Katie and the whole gang face to face. After her one-on-one with the not-so little red monster, Keirah was elated.

When asked what her deployed daddy would think about her meeting Elmo, her jubilation quickly subsided and her brows began knitting. She responded quietly, staring down at her feet.

“Daddy’s far, far away for work,” she said. ~ Story and photos by Joseph Andrew Lee, USO Staff Writer

***

The Sesame Street/USO Experience for Military Families tour has performed more than 371 shows on 115 installations in 33 states and 12 countries – lifting the spirits of 222,000+ military families. Tour dates, character bios and tour information can be found at www.uso.org/sesame

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A Place Not So Far From Home

Actor Gary Sinise hits the stage to perform for troops and military families at U.S. Coast Guard Base Kodiak. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis

When we think of our troops serving in remote locations, far from the comforts of home, we typically envision them in the desert on the frontlines of war but that isn’t always the case.

Countless troops serve our nation right here on the home front, including the thousands of Guardsmen and military families stationed on the small island of Kodiak in Alaska, home to one of the largest U.S. Coast Guard bases in the world.  I recently visited the island with USO tour veteran Gary Sinise and his band, The Lt. Dan Band, and discovered that you don’t have to live in a foreign land to feel far from home.

“Alaska isn’t another country, but sometimes it feels like it is”

From our first stop in Anchorage to our last stop in Kodiak we heard over and over how much troops and their families appreciated Gary Sinise and the Lt. Dan Band’s USO visit and how much it meant to them.  “We never get any famous people here, it’s just too far,” said one military spouse, who explained how much she missed just being able to attend a concert.  The men and women stationed in Alaska may not be serving overseas or in combat zones, but it doesn’t mean they aren’t missing some of the same comforts of home as those who are.   When a celebrity volunteer like Gary Sinise drops by to say thank you and deliver a high-energy, family-friendly USO show, it lets them know that America recognizes their service comes at a price and appreciates their sacrifice.

(L-R) Medal of Honor recipient Drew Dix, actor Gary Sinise and Capt. Bill Deal, commanding officer of Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak, pose for a photo with the crews of the air station. U.S. Coast Guard Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Jonathan Klingenberg.

Sometimes it’s the simplest things that make the biggest differences.  Petty Officer 3rd Class David Call, who escorted our group for most of our time in Kodiak, pointed out,  “What I miss the most is being able to get in my car and drive.”Kodiak hosts less than 100 miles of drivable road, and when you’re used to hopping in your car to relax or clear your mind the open highway can become as welcome a sight as a good friend.  That’s why, no matter what it is our troops are missing or wherever they serve the USO and partners like Gary Sinise and TriWest Healthcare Alliance – who help to fund many of the Gary Sinise and the Lt. Dan Band tours – are there for them. While the USO may not be able to bring the open road to our men and women in uniform, like Petty Officer Call, we can bring them a good time and some memories to last a lifetime.

Petty Officer 3rd Class David Call, who can be seen as part of the Weather Channel Series “Coast Guard Alaska,” provides medical support to a 5-month-old baby girl. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Charly Hengen

To see a glimpse of the action tune into The Weather Channel’s hit series “Coast Guard Alaska,” which airs Wednesdays at 9/8c and follow the men and women serving at Kodiak as they train, work, and tackle the harsh environment of rugged Alaska.  USO and Gary Sinise fans can also look forward to a special USO themed episode in season three.  To learn more about the USO and how you can support our forward deployed troops, military families and our ill, injured and wounded warriors please visit us online at www.uso.org.  - Sharee Posey, USO Senior Communications Specialist

Live from the Homefront

Tim McGraw performing at the Live from the Homefront Memorial Day Concert with USO NY and Chase

To honor all those who have served this Memorial Day, USO Metro NY and Chase partnered together to host Live From the Homefront – the first of many upcoming concerts featuring country superstar Tim McGraw.

Kip Moore opened for Tim McGraw at the Live from the Homefront Memorial Day concert

His first experience performing for the troops, opening act Kip Moore quickly had everyone on their feet, laughing and singing along. Much to the troops’ delight, he even debuted a new song inspired by all those who serve that he and his band wrote together the night before!

Getting the crowd pumped is easy when you’re Tim McGraw!

Then Tim McGraw took the stage! Singing favorites new and old, the audience screamed and cheered for his entire performance. Shaking hands and handing out high fives, McGraw later said “These men and women go out and put their lives on the line to protect the simple freedoms we enjoy every day. Playing for them last night was a thrill for me, and it was just small gesture of appreciation.”

The Memorial Day performance kicked off McGraw’s involvement with the HomeFront program, an effort from Chase and Operation Homefront to help military families buy homes. The program will provide mortgage-free houses to 25 wounded service members and military men and women in need.

The whole performance was streamed live on YouTube and the Pentagon Channel. Here are some great pictures if you missed it!

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- Vyque Elessar, USO Director of New Media

Tell the Troops: You Rock!

Time and time again you have stepped up to show our troops you support them. Wherever they’re serving, our troops need to know we’ve got their backs. And the USO has just the way for you to get that message across.

Send a donation of $25 or more and get your limited 2012 edition of the USO’s “Our Troops Know I Have Their Backs” t-shirt in time for the 4th of July.

Our troops are deployed all over the world, from Afghanistan to Okinawa to bases across the United States, serving to protect us and our country. And no matter where they are, thanks to people like you, the USO is there to support them, providing care packages, helping them connect back home, supporting our healing heroes, and so much more.

Donate $25 or more to support our troops before the June 1st deadline. We’ll rush your 2012 “I Have Their Backs” t-shirt to you in time for the 4th of July.

I know you’ll be proud to wear this very special t-shirt everywhere you go on the
4th of July.

Thanks for all you do,
Joan Jett

P.S. — These shirts are a limited edition for 2012, so don’t wait for the deadline, make sure you get yours today!