Apple Valley Optimist Club Recieves USO/Optimist International Patch

Members of the Apple Valley Optimist Club at Los Domingos on April 2, 2013 (Photo Credit: Apple Valley Optimist Club)

Members of the Apple Valley Optimist Club at Los Domingos on April 2, 2013 (Photo Credit: Apple Valley Optimist Club)

The Apple Valley Optimist Club has reached their goal of raising $1000 to support United Through Reading’s Military Program. The USO along with its partner United Through Reading® give deployed troops the opportunity to record themselves reading books to their children, and the recordings are then mailed back to the family along with a copy of the book.

“Think how wonderful it would be for these children to have something so memorable, not to mention the moral support this offers to the parent at home,” Apple Valley Club Chairwoman Julie Whittingham said.

For the past year, the Apple Valley Optimist Club has tirelessly held various fundraisers to support this program. Some of the events the club held includes partnering with their local Barnes & Noble’s to gift wrap books over the holidays. The club also had a booth at a local festival fairgrounds passing out information to the general public asking them to step up and support the United Through Reading’s Military Program through the USO.

The Apple Valley Optimist Club was the first Optimist Club to receive the USO/Optimist International commemorative patch for their outstanding support of military families. All Optimist Clubs raising $1,000 or more earn this patch. Congratulations, Apple Valley Optimist Club!

‘Little C.H.A.M.P.S’ Author Fink Shares Stories from USO Tour to Japan

Debbie Fink – co-author of “The Little C.H.A.M.P.S – Child Heroes Attached to Military Personnel” is currently on a USO tour of the Pacific talking to children from military families. Here is a blog post about her trip:

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Author Debbie Fink, center, is on a USO tour in Japan. USO photo

A sandy-haired child scoots out of line after a Little C.H.A.M.P.S event to ask me “But what if I don’t feel any of those emotions ever?”

We had discussed the importance of identifying our emotions. Happy. Sad. Scared. Angry. Worried. Surprised. Embarrassed. Confused. In Denial (with explanation).

Now here’s a Champ who, at the very least, has endured multiple moves and parental deployments and homecomings. And yet he views himself as emotionless.

Anyone who has taken Psychology 101 would recognize that there is some suppression of emotions going on here. I have less than a minute with him to respond before he’s swooped into the exit line.

“Okay. You’re tuning in. Now is a good time to talk about your thoughts with a trusted adult. Keep communicating. You could visit your guidance counselor. I suggest you share with her what you shared with me.”

And he was gone.

Right behind him a bubbly, brown-eyed boy bumped along, saying, “My dad is deploying. Aaaaaagain. Now I know I can tell him that I’m feeling worried. And angry. And scared, too.” I have mere moments to say, “Good! It will help you and your dad to talk about how you’re feeling. Keep communicating.”

And he was gone.

After another performance, a giggly group of girl Champs approached me. The ‘spokesgirl’ said, “We love our ‘Little C.H.A.M.P.S’ song! We listen to it over and over! And your ‘Heart Smart’ song is awesome!” Then their stream of questions tripped over each other: “Did you really write it for your kids? Did you really fix it for us? Was that really your daughter singing? Is it on YouTube? She’s got a pretty voice! So does the USO lady who sang!” Chuckling, I answered, “Yes; yes; yes; not yet, though it’s posted on OperationChamps.org – but ask a parent to look for it with you. And thanks – I’ll tell them you said they have pretty voices!“

And they were gone.

Then there was the Champ who asked quietly as she passed, “Am I really special? Do I really have a spark?” Following my emphatic, reassuring “YES! YES!!” response, she was gone.

A last moment engraved in my soul was the precious li’l Champ who, on her way out, looked at me and said, “Can I hug you?  ‘Cuz I feel like you hugged me!” After our real hug and shared moment, she was gone.

These vignettes capture the li’l hearts and minds of the incredible Champs encountered during our first 10  “edutainment” performances in mainland Japan.   While these Champs came and went, heading back to life-on-the-move, they are emblazoned in my heart forever.

Thanks to the USO and its teamwork with the Department of Defense Education Activity (DODEA), each of the 6,000 Champs we visit in mainland Japan and Okinawa is receiving a copy of “The Little C.H.A.M.P.S” book – a story that celebrates their selfless service and sacrifice, while giving them coping tools that further fortify their resiliency and character.

One overwhelming takeaway is how beyond impressed I am by the exemplary professionals handling all the logistical details that go into planning and executing this Little C.H.A.M.P.S tour. The USO’s stalwart and skillful team in the Pacific and stateside – working alongside DODEA’s dedicated and committed staff and educators – fills me with the greatest admiration and respect. I must also give a shout out to the USO volunteers who have helped behind-the-scenes to make all this happen!

Sixteen performances await us in Okinawa. Circling back to emotions, I’m so happy to be spreading the goodness and gratitude together with the USO and DODEA; and am already so sad to think that soon I will also . . . be gone.

Though, as is sung in “The Little C.H.A.M.P.S” song, “Goodbyes are not forever / goodbyes are not the end / they simply mean we’ll miss you / until we meet again.”  Farewell, Japan’s Champs! Hello, Okinawa’s Champs! Ready or not, here we come!   Go Champs!

–Debbie Fink

What Our Troops Asked For

When you really need to get something done, you turn to the people you can count on. Time after time, you’ve been there when we’ve asked you to invest in critical projects supporting our troops. That’s why I’m turning to you now.

Here’s the situation: Our new USO Warrior and Family Center at Ft. Belvoir is now operational. That’s crucial because the road to recovery for our wounded troops can be physically and mentally challenging.

And part of the help we can provide is the opportunity now and then to visit a home away from home during their recovery where they can relax and relieve some stress. Can we count on you to help with some critical USO projects at the USO Warrior and Family Center including furnishing and supplying our new state-of-the-art Game Room?

Please, make your donation of $10 or more to help supply and furnish the new Game Room at the brand-new USO Warrior and Family Center at Ft. Belvoir.

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The Game Room in our new USO Warrior and Family Center at Ft. Belvoir is going to be something special — a state-of-the-art gamer’s dream. The latest and greatest video games — and all the technology to enjoy them to the fullest.

We’re installing eight 32-inch displays, video gaming chairs with built-in speakers and controls. With all of the technology provided our wounded troops and their families are guaranteed to not only have fun, but to also be helped along their path to their recovery through the therapeutic effects of positive stress relief.

And it’s impossible to think of a group of people more deserving of a chance to enjoy themselves and the comforts of home at our newest center.

Can we count you in on this special project? Click here to donate directly to the supplying and furnishing of the new Game Room at Fort Belvoir.

You’ve always been there for our troops. I hope you will step forward and support them once again with the care and commitment you’ve always shown. - Kelli Seely, Senior Vice President, Chief Development Office, USO

USO Comforts Family of Korean War Soldier

Army Pfc. Roosevelt “Jack” Clark's Yearbook Photo

Army Pfc. Roosevelt “Jack” Clark’s Yearbook Photo

Four volunteers reported for duty hours before dawn this morning at Los Angeles International Airport’s Bob Hope Hollywood USO to greet the remains of a fallen soldier.

As the flag-draped coffin containing the remains of Army Pfc. Roosevelt “Jack” Clark slowly rolled from the rear of the plane, his family could hardly contain their joy to finally bring him home.

It’s not that they’re happy he died. His family’s grief has lasted nearly 62 years. Clark was first reported missing-in-action while fighting with the 35th Infantry Regiment in North Korea in 1950. He was just 18.

His remains were recently identified among 208 boxes of human remains turned over to the United States by North Korea in the early 1990s. It was determined that he had died just three days before he was reported missing, when his position was overwhelmed by elements of the Chinese People’s Volunteer Forces.

“A dignified transfer is usually a very somber event,” said Bob Kurkjian, executive director of USO Greater Los Angeles Area. “We are always there to support families of the fallen, but this time was different.”

The USO is committed to supporting families of the fallen through our centers and partnerships with airport and service honor guards, as well as organizations such as the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS). USO staff and volunteers provide comfort for family members along the journey to the final resting place of the service member.

“This was the celebration of a soldier’s return home,” added Kurkjian. “We helped bring his family the closure they haven’t had for decades.”

Two of Clark’s cousins and his great-niece were there — alongside USO volunteers, airport police and firefighters — to welcome Clark’s remains.

“It’s a closure for us,” his cousin, Rennie Hunter, told KABC-TV. The hardest part about having a family member go missing, she said, is that “you just never know what had happened or if they will ever come back home.”

Clark grew up close to his cousins in rural Arvin, located just southeast of Bakersfield, Calif., and though it was his mother’s lifelong dream for Clark to return home, neither of his parents lived to see it.

Clark’s remains will be buried Friday in Bakersfield, KTLA-TV reported.

Questions about the USO’s support for families of the fallen can be directed to Wendy Fish, Families of the Fallen Support program manager, at wfish@uso.org. - Joseph Andrew Lee, USO Staff Writer

A New Center For Our Warriors

The Sports Lounge in the USO Warrior and Family Center at Fort Belvoir is almost ready for our wounded troops and their caregivers and families to enjoy.

The Sports Lounge in the USO Warrior and Family Center at Fort Belvoir is almost ready for our wounded troops and their caregivers and families to enjoy.

More than 40,000 troops have been visibly wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan, and more than 300,000 troops suffer from invisible wounds, like post-traumatic stress or traumatic brain injury. In addition, the Pentagon said the military reached a record high of 349 suicides in 2012, highlighting the need for increased mental and emotional care for America’s returning troops. While these numbers are upsetting, we have to face the fact that returning troops need us now more than ever. It is a particularly important time for recovering troops to have a stress-free and supportive environment as they heal and reintegrate into civilian life.

Since 1941, the USO has been there for our troops. As we continue to adapt to meet the needs of our military and their loved ones, we are thrilled to open the doors to a new center – designed especially for our recovering troops, their families and caregivers – in just a few days.

Located steps away from the Fort Belvoir Community Hospital, the USO Warrior and Family Center at Fort Belvoir, Va., will offer activities for recovering troops, their families and caregivers that will help them relax, have fun and reintegrate into society. Specifically, the programs and classes offered will align with the USO’s Continuum of Care. The center will have programmatic offerings in the areas of physical health and recreation, family strengthening, behavioral health, employment, education and community reintegration. Inside the center, guests will have access to more than 20 areas, including a movie theater, respite suite, sports lounge, business center, music room and a healing garden outdoors.

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The Game Room will be a place for recovering troops to relax and enjoy the latest games with state-of-the-art video game consoles and screens.


During the difficult journey toward recovery, this center will be a place for support, relaxation, a peaceful environment for families to come together and an opportunity to prepare for a fulfilling and happy life ahead. Men and women dealing with the aftermath of deployment can learn how to transition into a new and different role, find hope and embrace the change. Like all USO centers, the mission remains the same – to lift the spirits of America’s troops and their families.

A second USO Warrior and Family Center is currently being constructed at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., and is scheduled for completion in early 2014. The Warrior and Family Centers at Fort Belvoir and in Bethesda are possible because of the USO’s Operation Enduring Care campaign and our generous volunteers. We could not do this without you! – Sarah Camille Hipp, Communications Specialist

Support a New Center For Our Wounded

In 6 days, we open the doors on the new USO Warrior and Family Center at Fort Belvoir, Virginia – the first of its kind.

But this is more than just a new USO center. This is a symbol of America’s commitment to our wounded troops and their families. It’s an opportunity for all of us to let our troops know we’re right there with them.

The most effective and efficient way you can do that is by becoming a USO Proud Patriot. Your monthly pledge will be a clear sign to our troops that you’ll be there for them every day.

Become a USO Proud Patriot with a monthly pledge of $10, $15 or more and we’ll send you an exclusive USO tote bag.Screen Shot 2013-01-29 at 2.06.33 PM

As a USO Proud Patriot, you’ll be playing a pivotal role in delivering support to our troops.

This special group of supporters gives us the resources to do more for our troops — more free calls home, more care packages to the frontlines, and more care for our wounded, ill and injured troops at the new USO Warrior and Family Center.

And once you make the decision to become a USO Proud Patriot, we’ll immediately send you an exclusive USO tote bag to show our appreciation.

Take a strong stand for our troops. Make a monthly pledge of $10, $15 or more.

This new center is an important step for us here at the USO. It’s a chance for us to renew our commitment to our wounded troops and their families, and to show them we’ll be by their side every day. I hope you join us in sharing this excitement by becoming a USO Proud Patriot today.

Thanks for all you do,

Sloan Gibson
USO President and CEO