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

A New Floor Plan: USO Northwest to Lay Decking from WWII-Era USS Colorado in Airport Center

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USO Northwest was gifted a piece of history Thursday. The USO center at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport received planks from the teak decking from the USS Colorado, a ship that patrolled the waters of the Pacific during World War II. The decking – a gift from Boeing, which possessed the boards for more than 50 years – will cover roughly 1,500 square feet of floor inside the USO’s Sea-Tac center.

“We are very excited the Boeing Company has chosen the USO Northwest to be the recipient of this great piece of history,” USO Northwest Executive Director Don Leingang said, according to the Tukwila Reporter. “Our organization truly understands the significance of this donation and is honored to be the new caretaker of this teakwood planking for as long as the USO exists at SeaTac Airport.”

Vice President Joe Biden Stops by USO-Hosted Picnic in South Korea

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Vice President Joe Biden – at the end of a diplomatic trip to Asia – dropped by Yongsan Garrison, South Korea, last weekend for a visit with service members. And despite the short notice, the USO was able to pull off a memorable meet-and-greet for hundreds of troops and their families.

“A highlight of the event was when [Biden] invited all the children to come up on stage to join him for his remarks,” USO Korea Area Director Tony Davis wrote in an email recap of the event. “Most of the kids had USO teddy bears tucked in their arms!”

The USO put on a picnic for nearly 500 troops and family members. The Eighth Army Band entertained the crowd while children had access to bouncy castles and a host of games. After speaking, Biden took time to mingle and pose for pictures with several attendees.

Liberty USO, Phillies Provide Surprise Holiday Moment for Two Recently Deployed Troops

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Chief Warrant Officer 2 Eileen Smith’s eyes filled with tears. Capt. Bud Evans shared a long embrace with his son. No matter where you looked, one thing was clear: Liberty USO had created another USO Moment.

The Phillie Phanatic – in his Phanta Claus outfit – handed holiday stockings to two service members who recently returned from Afghanistan on Wednesday at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia. In each stocking was a free trip to Philadelphia Phillies spring training in Clearwater, Fla., including US Airways travel vouchers, hotel accommodations, an informal meet-and-greet with Phillies players and first pitch honors at a game. (Check out video of the event here.)

In addition to the surprise, Phillies personnel, Liberty USO staff and board members and host John Brazer assembled the final Operation Stocking Stuffer (OSS) care packages, which will go to troops serving overseas. The OSS shipments will bring USO Liberty’s care package total to more than 5,000 in 2013.

USO Salutes Heroes with Tailgate for the Troops in Tampa

Airmen from MacDill Air Force Base

Airmen from MacDill Air Force Base enjoy food and drinks at the USO’s Tailgate for the Troops on Veterans Day in Tampa, Fla. (Photo by Chad Stewart / USO)

Each year Veterans Day offers an opportunity to honor all members of the military – past and present – for their selfless dedication and loyalty to their country.

It’s also an occasion to celebrate their service and have some fun.

This year, to thank service members, the USO threw a huge tailgate party in Tampa, Fla., for troops and their families before the hometown Buccaneers’ Monday Night Football matchup against the Miami Dolphins. USO Tampa Bay, with help from the Bucs and Jeep, provided food, drinks, entertainment, T-shirts and free game tickets to hundreds of troops.

The tailgate, part the USO’s Every Moment Counts campaign, gave service members a chance to relax and have some fun before heading into the stadium to cheer on their team.

Inside Raymond James Stadium, the Buccaneers were the big winners on Monday night. But it was a different story outside the stadium, where members of the military were the stars of the show.

The USO Show Troupe flew in from New York to entertain the crowd and a Mobile USO trekked all the way from Virginia to add to the festivities. It was an occasion to celebrate the military and give thanks, and more than a dozen volunteers from Jeep joined in to help serve troops.

Retired Marine Gunnery Sgt. Michael Rovinelli, executive director of USO Tampa Bay, was on hand to witness the festivities firsthand.

“Veterans Day is awesome. For me, it’s double fun,” he said. “I get to remember when I was in and I know what these troops and their families go through on a daily basis. It makes it so easy to do my job because I have that instant connection.”

With 23 years of service under his belt, Air Force Command Chief Master Sgt. Tommy Mazzone has had a long relationship with the USO.  He knows the work the USO does for troops around the world and he’s trying to get the message out to younger service members.

“[Troops] get to see something like this [tailgate] on a grand scale. But, if anything, what they’ll remember is the USO did this,” he said. “And then when they walk past a USO in an airport and they step in, maybe it takes them a step further and maybe they’ll want to volunteer. … If we can keep that circle of life going, that’s exactly what will make the USO continue to be successful.”

USO-NFL Partnership Kept Football Streaming to Troops in Afghanistan During Government Shutdown

Troops gather at USO Kandahar in Afghanistan to watch football, courtesy of NFL Game Pass. USO photos by Daniel Wood

Troops gather at USO Kandahar in Afghanistan to watch football in late September, courtesy of NFL Game Pass. USO photo by Daniel Wood

The recent government shutdown – which ended on Thursday – left troops downrange with a slimmed-down version of the Armed Forces Network, and the prospect of missing their favorite football teams on Sunday nights.

However, NFL Game Pass – which the league offers free of charge to USO centers outside the United States – kept the games streaming for troops at sites like USO Kandahar.

“They really saved the day here,” said Daniel Wood, duty manager at USO Kandahar.

Here’s what troops in Afghanistan told the USO’s Eric Raum on Oct. 6:

  • Spec. Gary Stripling: “I thought we just weren’t going to get to watch the games this week. A buddy told me the USO was still going to show the NFL over an Internet connection so we all came down early to get a seat.”
  • Staff Sgt. Brian Duchsne: “It’s something we look forward to all week, it gets you through, knowing you’ll relax for an evening and watch football, so we were pretty excited to hear the USO was still going to be showing the game.”