Curtain Call for “Nate The Great” at Military Child of the Year Gala

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Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, delivers remarks Thursday in Arlington, Va., as James Nathaniel Richards looks on. Department of Defense photo

In case you missed it, Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, had a photo op with James Nathaniel Richards – otherwise known as “Nate the Great” – on Thursday in Arlington, Va. The two were together for the fifth annual Military Child of the Year Gala.

If the name doesn’t ring a bell, Nate – whose mom, Lorraine, is a USO San Diego volunteer – contributed to this blog last April. He was the 2012 Navy Military Child of the Year and writes about being a military kid on his own blog, natethegreatmilitarybrat.

The USO continues to celebrate the Month of the Military Child by highlighting programs that help boost morale and provide opportunities to military families worldwide like Trevor Romain presentations and kits and United Through Reading’s Military Program.

–Story by USO Story Development

USO Tampa Bay’s Lamerton Receives Community Honor from NHL Team

On Jan. 18, 2012, the USO Board of Governors did something it hadn’t done in 20 years: it voted to grant a charter to a new USO.

The doors to the new USO Tampa Bay center have been open since September, and just last week, the man who made it all happen was honored by the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning as the 32nd Lightning Community Hero of 2013.

Tampa Bay Lightning player Nate Thompson, left, and Lightning Chief Operating Officer Steve Griggs, right, present a $50,000 check to Walter Lamerton and Brenda Schwarzkopf, the wife of the late General Norman Schwarzkopf. Photo courtesy of the Tampa Bay Lightning

Tampa Bay Lightning player Nate Thompson, left, and Lightning Chief Operating Officer Steve Griggs, right, present a $50,000 check to Walter Lamerton and Brenda Schwarzkopf, the wife of the late General Norman Schwarzkopf. Photo courtesy of the Tampa Bay Lightning

USO Tampa Bay CEO Walter Lamerton – a retired Air Force senior master sergeant from Trinity, Fla. – was presented with a $50,000 check from the Lightning Foundation and the Lightning Community Heroes program. How much does he care about the USO? He donated the entire check back the USO of Tampa Bay.

Lamerton – a jet engine mechanic when he served – didn’t realize at first that there wasn’t a USO at the Tampa Bay International Airport.

“Like many others in this community, I would see all of the 300,000 military personnel going through the airport every year, but I must have just assumed there was a USO,” he said.

When he realized there was no place for the traveling troops to decompress, he launched an initiative to build a USO. In two years, Lamerton secured funding, attracted 550 volunteers and formed local versions of what he calls a “blue collar” board of directors, an advisory board and committees.

“I was told, ‘This has been tried before,’” Lamerton said. “And I simply responded with, ‘I don’t know anything about that. All I know is what’s needed now.’”

The stars aligned when CEO Joe Lopano took over at Tampa Bay International Airport after leaving an executive role at the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport – where the USO has an impactful presence – and Gen. (Ret.) Richard B. Myers took over as chairman of the board for the USO worldwide.

“It was at that moment, when the new CEO came in to town and Gen. Myers announced that he would be the new chairman, that I knew it could happen,” Lamerton said. “I had served under Gen. Myers, so I called him up to congratulate him and at the same time ask for his help.”

Myers facilitated conversations between Lamerton and the Tampa Bay airport’s executive committee. Lamerton submitted a financial plan, and approvals from the USO’s Board of Directors and the airport came in nearly simultaneously.

“Walter Lamerton was a driving force behind submitting this ultimately successful proposal to the USO Board of Governors,” said Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-Fla.), Vice Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, before Congress last May. “He worked closely with volunteers throughout the Tampa Bay area and effectively conveyed their message of support for our service members and their families to both the local community and to the USO Board of Governors, under a compact timeframe.

“Mr. Lamerton’s leadership and attention to detail were critical in the effort to bring the USO Center to Tampa. As a result, many of our nation’s service members and their families will directly benefit from his efforts for years to come.”

— Joseph Andrew Lee, USO Staff Writer

Faces of the USO: An Invaluable Liaison

Screen Shot 2013-03-04 at 4.30.20 PMBefore coming to the USO, Tomoko McManus lent her skills to some of Japan’s largest, most influential companies, including Nissan, Sony and Fukuda Denshi.

She called on her English language proficiency as she worked with engineers to translate technical documents and manuals. In 2009, McManus learned about the USO during an area orientation at Yokosuka Air Base. She also learned that USO Japan was looking for an administrative assistant.

At home, she told her husband, a retired U.S. service member, about the vacancy.

“He told me that the USO is a great organization,” she said. “It made me think this is an organization I could be a part of.”

Since then McManus, a native of Tateyama in Chiba prefecture, has been an invaluable member of the USO Japan staff. On a daily basis, she fields emails and phone calls and works on reports. She manages the area director’s schedule, arranging travel and meetings.

And she’s still putting her dual language skills to use. She serves as translator when the area director meets with host-nation companies, Japanese government officials or members of the Japan Self-Defense Forces.

During bazaars, McManus is a liaison to international vendors, coordinating base access. And she is intimately involved in planning and executing the annual Service Salute.

“Working with the USO as a volunteer or a staff member is a lot of work but it truly is rewarding,” she said. “When you get a thank you and a smile from a service member that has been deployed or away from home, it makes all of the hard work worth it.” – Derek Turner, USO Sr. Editor

Jeep Heroes Caravan

In celebration of their heroism, seven members of the U.S. Military were invited to New Orleans to attend Super Bowl XLVII and to celebrate the launch of the Jeep® Operation SAFE Return Campaign and USO Partnership. The Jeep Heroes Caravan itinerary included local food tours, a visit to the Mardi Gras Museum, lunch with Chef John Besh (a former Marine), a meet and greet with Grammy award winning Hip-Hop band, The Roots and attending the big game.

In addition, the Jeep brand has created the “Tribute for Troops” social media campaign, an effort that encourages citizens to support troops in their communities. Now through Mon. May 27, the Jeep brand will donate $1 for every person who pledges to join the movement and tweets out their efforts using the hash tag #joinOSR.

More information on Operation SAFE Return, can be found at http://www.jeep.com/OSR

Operation SAFE Return

On Superbowl Sunday, the USO and Jeep launch an initiative that celebrates and gives back to our troops — those whose work ethic, dedication and service have sustained the very fabric of this nation. “Operation SAFE Return” (OSR) aims to raise awareness and galvanize community support for returning troops and their families. As part of the initiative:

  • Jeep will contribute more than $1 million in funding and vehicles to the USO to be used in programs that directly aid service members and family in their efforts to re-acclimate to civilian life.
  • Jeep employees volunteered a ‘day of service’ at the new USO Warrior and Family Center at Fort Belvoir, Virginia on Wednesday, February 6, 2013
  • Now through Monday, May 27, Jeep will donate $1 to the USO for every person who pledges to join the movement and tweets out their efforts using the hash tag #joinOSR.

Learn more about last night’s ‘Day of Service’at USO.org.

Faces of the USO: A New Way to Serve

Screen Shot 2013-01-17 at 2.22.26 PMElizabeth Vallette’s first experience with the USO wasn’t exactly life-changing, but it lifted the spirits of a cash-poor West Point cadet making her way through an airport en route to a training assignment.

“Another cadet came running … up the terminal at us, screaming ‘Free hot dogs at the USO,’” Vallette said.

Later, during a 12-month deployment to Iraq with III Corps in 2004, the USO brought comedian Robin Williams to her base in Baghdad. “His show was perfect timing,” Vallette said. “It was just sinking in that things were not going well. We really needed the pick-me-up, and he delivered.”

After leaving the Army, Vallette spent time as an MBA student at the University of Houston and worked for a Canadian nonprofit in Kabul, Afghanistan.

When the project ended, she saw a job listing for a center director at USO Houston.“It hadn’t ever really occurred to me that you could actually work for the USO … and get paid,” she said.

Since July 2011, she has led a team that serves nearly 35,000 troops and family members with the help of a team of 400 volunteers.

Anyone who wants a taste of Vallette’s Houston hospitality should check out the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo’s World’s Championship in February and checkout the USO’s entry in the bar-b-cue contest. – Derek Turner, USO Sr. Editor