USO Brings Food and Football to the Troops

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Pictures from the tailgate and watch party held at the new USO Warrior & Family Center on Fort Belvoir

Last night millions of people got together with their friends and family to eat party food and watch one of the most popular TV events of the year: the Superbowl. But there are still countless troops deployed far away from the comforts of home. That’s where the USO steps in.

At USO centers around the globe, troops got to settle in for food and football and smiling faces! Here is just a sampling of some of the fun:

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USO Hawaii Volunteer Honored for 25 Years of Service

For most of America’s active-duty troops, 25 years seems like a lifetime. For George Villa, its been a rewarding chapter in a life of service.

George Villa, center left, and USO Hawaii Director Leigh Graham, center right, are seen at the Dec. 1 Service Salute in Hawaii. USO photo

George Villa, center left, and USO Hawaii Director Leigh Graham, center right, are seen at the Dec. 1 Service Salute in Hawaii. USO photo

Villa was honored at USO Hawaii’s Service Salute on Dec. 1, where he received a USO Lifetime Achievement Award for his 25-plus years of service to the organization along with the USO Hawaii Volunteer of the Year award.

“George is undeniably a key part of our operations in the Honolulu center,” USO Hawaii Director Leigh Graham said in a recent email.

Now 85 years old, Villa still commutes to the Honolulu International Airport via public transportation four days a week to perform his volunteer duties. Villa volunteered for 1,850 hours in the past year and a half, where he “provides directions, tips on places to visit, ideas on things to see, secrets on best places to eat and directions on how and where to catch ‘The Bus!’” according to a citation in the Service Salute program.

—Eric Brandner, Director of Story Development

USO April Hot Jobs

Here at the USO we’re often asked, “How can I get more involved?” Surprisingly, many don’t consider what could be considered the ultimate in getting involved: working full-time at the USO! Here are just a few positions open right now:

United States

Director, Major Gifts (can be based in Virginia or Texas) – The Director, Major Gifts is responsible for implementation of fundraising efforts targeted to individuals who are capable of donating $25,000 or more to support USO programs and services.

Intern for Information Technology – Listed  under Career Development Positions – The Career Development Program (CDP) is designed to provide current students or recent graduates with a hands-on experience to learn more about non-profits and the various roles we play in lifting the spirits of America’s troops and their families.

Pacific

Area Operations Manager, Seoul, Korea –The Area Operations Manager will be responsible for the management, operation and delivery of programs and services at the USO centers within the Seoul, Korea area.

Because why spend your days toiling away at a thankless job? Working at the USO is a truly rewarding experience where you do amazing work with passionate people and day in and day out you get messages of gratitude from the troops and their families. But, in the end, you are simply thankful for being able to do what you can. – Vyque Elessar, USO Director of New Media

The USO Family

Air Force Major Phil Ambard and his wife, Linda. Courtesy photo.

Air Force Major Phil Ambard was a family man.

“From the time he was a young Airman Basic through his commission as an officer 16 years later, he has been warmly greeted and taken care of at each USO,” said his wife of 23 years, Linda Ambard. “When we flew to Germany for the first time, we had five children under the age of ten, but we were made to feel like the USO was ours—that we were family.”

“This USO family has never meant more to me than when my Phil was killed in action on 27 April 2011.”

Her Phil was among eight Air Force officers shot and killed at Kabul International Airport by a 50-year-old Afghan Air Corps pilot.

Linda was left devastated and in a fog.

Their five children, including three Air Force Academy graduates and one who was attending West Point, flew to Dover Air Force Base from all around the world to meet their mother and repatriate the remains of their father.

The pain was so fresh; Linda couldn’t coordinate any of her own travel. She had trouble remembering the gates and felt dizzy navigating the crowds.

“At every single airport where there was a USO, we were each met by USO staff who walked us to our gate, brought us drinks, and who stayed with us the entire time,” she said. “They didn’t know us, yet they stood with each and every one of us.”

In Texas, while buying a magazine, she learned that all of her bank accounts had been frozen due to Phil’s death. The USO representative was quick to offer her some money, pay for her purchase and even spoke to the bank on her behalf.

“When we arrived at Dover, the USO came out with many volunteers,” said Linda. “Once again they had representatives for each of us. They allowed us to talk, make jokes—our family’s way of dealing with the stress—and they sat with me as I broke down yet again.”

Afterward, the family returned to Colorado Springs for the funeral.

“The USO ensured we were all seated together and near the front of the airplane,” she said. “This was no easy feat to get seven of us together, yet they did it for us.”

Eight months later, Linda knew that she couldn’t celebrate Christmas at home, so the family flew to Hawaii.  On the return trip, she and her cadet son spent 10 hours in the USO where their story eventually got out.

“The USO staff once again bent over backwards to make sure that we knew that people were walking with us and that we were still important to the USO family,” said Linda, “and I just want you to know that the USO was important to him and since his passing, the USO has meant so much to the Ambard and Short families.”

“He started as an immigrant boy,” she said, “but died as a man willing to stand up for the freedoms of all. He truly was an American hero.” — By Joseph Andrew Lee, USO Staff Writer

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Phil Ambard, 44, was born in Caracas, Venezuela. He didn’t speak a word of English when he moved to the United States at the age of 12. After graduating from high school, he enlisted in the United States Air Force as an Airman Basic. He rose to the rank of Senior Master Sergeant (select) before he was commissioned as an officer and then rose to the rank of Major before he made the ultimate sacrifice for his country.  He had recently graduated from Denver University with a Ph.D and his second master’s degree.

He is survived by his children Patrick, Emily, Alex, Tim and Josh, his daughter-in-law Karla and his wife Linda.

March USO Hot Jobs

Probably one of the best moments of my life was when I was offered a job at the USO. Being able spend my days doing what I can to lift the spirits of the troops and their families, sometimes directly and sometimes indirectly… it really gives new meaning to the phrase “job satisfaction.”

Interested in working here at the USO yourself? Check out some of the great positions we have available right now:

  • Account Manager – Based in Arlington, VA, the Account Manager will cultivate, analyze, renew and expand relationships with key partners in order to raise revenue and/or in-kind donations that support USO programs and services.
  • Database Administrator – Based in Arlington, VA, the Database Administrator is responsible for database management, data integration, SQL reporting systems and report delivery, and USO business intelligence systems.
  • Director of Operations – Based in Okinawa, Japan, the Director of Operations will be responsible for operational leadership, direction and management of multiple financially viable, self-sustaining USO operations within the Pacific geographic region.
  • IT Coordinator – A part-time position based in Germany, the Information Technology Coordinator will work with and assist the USO Europe IT Systems Manager in monitoring, managing and maintaining the IT systems for USO centers located throughout the European Region.

You can learn more about these and other great opportunities to make a difference at USO.org/Careers. Maybe I’ll be seeing you soon! – Vyque Elessar, USO Director of New Media

Holding On To Cuzzie

Every now and then during our travels and presentations you come across a child that has a story that is very touching and inspirational. On this particular day, we were lucky enough to do the presentation at a theater in base housing in Sasebo. This one little girl comes skipping down the aisle holding a Cuzzie bear. We see this from time to time to time. It is very cool to see that because we know that she must have received one of our deployment kits. These kits are called the With You All the Way deployment kits. The USO gives these out to help kids with all phases of deployment. The Cuzzie bear is an integral part of the kit along with an animated movie and journal.

Trevor shows off a Cuzzie bear

Her teacher brought her over, carrying her With You All the Way journel along with her Cuzzie. She sat with me for a minute or two showing us what she had written and drawn in her journal. She also showed off a picture of her dad in full uniform, which she had glued it into her journal. She was so proud.  Her dad is currently deployed, but she seemed to be doing really well.

After she went and took her seat her teacher came up to and visited for a little bit.  The teacher wanted us to know she had really been using the kit and practicing some of things recommended in the DVD and journal.  Then the teacher shared something that had me tearing up with pride, joy, and also sadness.

On the day that the little girl’s father deployed she went with her mother to the ship that her dad was leaving on. Before he got on the ship the little girl sang, ‘Anchors Away’ to her dad. And as she sang, the little girl’s dad cried. I know that he couldn’t have helped but feel an overwhelming sense of many emotions. But he must have been incredibly proud of his little girl.

Trevor visits with military children overseas

Just seeing this little girl’s face and picturing that moment made me choke up instantly. And as I watched the little girl during that presentation I couldn’t help but get emotional. It is so gratifying to know that the kit the USO provided that little girl had such a positive impact on her deployment experience. And the way that she held on to her Cuzzie was absolutely priceless.

This was a great way to wrap up the second leg of the tour of the pacific region. Makes for a much shorter plane ride. - Trevor Romain, USO Entertainer and Children’s Author & Illustrator