Sisters in Arms, Comrades at Heart: A Valentine’s Day Celebration

Kelli Picker Skypes with service women at the USO in Kandahar

Kellie Pickler Skypes with service women at a USO in the Middle East

Songs have been written about them and movies made but nothing beats a real-life GNO! What’s that, you ask? Well, it’s a good old-fashioned “Girls Night Out,” and lets be honest, most of us need one every now and again.

No matter the reason or occasion, women around the world have been getting together to laugh, bond and make some life-long memories and friendships. And our servicewomen in Afghanistan and Kuwait are no exception.  Amidst desert conditions, high-stress missions and the added strain of missing their family and loved ones, they’ve managed to take comfort and find strength in their sisterhood.

You won’t find them at their favorite restaurant, or catching the latest tearjerker at the local movie theater, because they’re on a mission to protect and serve and are deployed in theater.  But once a month, you can find them at their local USO centers taking a break from the stresses of deployment, letting their hair down and getting as glammed as one can in the middle of warzone.

Always looking for innovative ways to serve our troops, USO centers in Southwest Asia recognized that the deployed female military population was in need of some Tender Loving Care and instituted their monthly “Ladies Night” events, where troops are given a private space (women only) to pamper themselves.  From nail polish, to sweet treats and chick flicks, USO centers supply servicewomen with the touches of home they’ve been missing.

When six-time USO tour veteran Kellie Pickler traveled to Afghanistan, to perform and show her support for servicemen and women, she came home realizing just how hard it is to for a woman to feel like a woman when she spends her days and nights in the desert, dressed in camouflage.  Once she heard about the USO’s “Ladies Nights,” Pickler knew she wanted to get involved and what better time than Valentine’s Day.  That’s why this Feb. 14th, the singer/songwriter and a team of her sponsors shipped off a supply of items to USO Centers in Afghanistan and Kuwait– so that our servicewomen could have an extra special day of pampering.

“I am grateful to all of our servicemen and women for the sacrifices they make, but I have a special place in my heart for servicewomen. They are some brave, beautiful and dedicated women. That’s why I wanted to do something special just for them this Valentine’s Day.  While our servicewomen are spending this time away from their families and loved ones I wanted them to be able to take a moment and pamper themselves” – Kellie Pickler

Pickler’s support didn’t end there.  She wanted our servicewomen to know exactly how much she appreciated their sacrifices and she told them via Skype.  Troops at USO Kandahar and USO Shindand in Afghanistan and USO Camp Buehring in Kuwait LIVE chatted with the songstress and heard first-hand about how much their service means to America.  And for those USO centers that couldn’t participate, due to connectivity restraints, Pickler recorded a special message of support.

Everyday that our deployed servicewomen are away from home they are missing out on the opportunity to fulfill their roles as mother, wife, sister, daughter or friend.  And there is no doubt that they are missed by their families and loved ones. Even in the harshest of conditions and when the heartache of homesickness seems overwhelming, our troops know that they can lean on each other and that no one understands what they are going through more than their sisters in arms. While we can’t recreate the moments in life that they are missing, we can show our appreciation and let them know how much their service means to us all.   With support from the American public and celebrity volunteers like Kellie Pickler the USO will always be there for our troops delivering goodness and support wherever they serve.   – Sharee Posey, USO Senior Communications Specialist

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See more pictures at the USO Kandahar Facebook Page and USO Camp Marmal Facebook Page!

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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Christmas in Afghanistan

I’ve been fortunate enough to visit our troops overseas and see firsthand what it’s like for them to spend this special time thousands of miles from the people they love most. I’ll never forget the selfless heroes I met. That’s why I feel so strongly about the USO’s Christmas Convoy.

With your help today preparing the way, this very special convoy — loaded up with everything the troops need for a much-deserved respite from the rigors of war — will reach our troops serving in remote and hard-to-reach forward operating bases in Afghanistan in time for the holidays.

It’s part of a larger USO effort to give our troops everything they need this holiday season. The logistics of such an undertaking aren’t easy. It takes time to put together. And to get the job done, we need to raise $100,000 by October 20th.

Will you join me in making sure the USO has the resources to reach as many troops as possible this holiday season?

The Christmas Convoy is especially close to my heart because it reaches troops in some of the most isolated front line outposts, where the small comforts of home are especially hard to come by.

It’s the centerpiece of our ambitious effort to bring a touch of holiday happiness to more troops than ever. And everything we do — from care packages, to free phone calls home, to special holiday meals — requires vigorous support from folks back home like you and me.

So I’m hoping the thousands of troops who’ll spend the holidays on the frontlines dreaming of home and family can count on your loyalty the way you count on theirs.

Make a gift to help make the 2012 Holiday Season a special one for our troops serving in Afghanistan and around the world.

Some October thoughtfulness from you can pave the way for wonderful holiday moments for our troops. Please join me in making this happen.

Happy (Early) Holidays,
Joan Jett

Special Delivery!

The USO is preparing our next big USO2GO shipment. It weighs a ton — literally.

That’s because it’s filled with the comforts of home — items that can help our troops transform remote forward operating bases in Afghanistan into a place where they can organize a pick-up football game, play guitar, or just relax in a beanbag chair.

We need your help to make this delivery possible. And, when you send a gift, we’ll add your name to a huge “thank you” banner that will be included in the shipment.

Help send a special USO2GO shipment and we’ll include your name on a banner so our troops know how much you appreciate their service.


The USO2GO shipment we’re putting together is more than a collection of items our troops can really use. It’s also a huge “thank you” from a grateful nation.

And this time, you can play a personal role in delivering that thanks by adding your name to our USO banner included in the shipment.

Imagine how our troops will feel when they unpack the boxes to find your name and the names of thousands of other USO supporters on a banner letting them know their country is standing proudly behind them.

And every day, as they enjoy some of the comforts of home you’ve helped provide in this USO2GO shipment, they’ll see your name and know there are people out there caring for them, supporting them and honoring their service.

Give our troops a one-of-a-kind USO2GO shipment and we’ll add your name to a banner that will be included in the shipment.

I know how strongly you stand by our troops and I hope you’ll take part in this great campaign today.

Thanks for all you do,

Kelli Seely, Senior Vice President, Chief Development Officer, USO

Bringing Comfort to Those Saving Lives in Afghanistan

Optimal levels of comfort achieved!

At a remote forward operating base in Afghanistan, a small team of medical officers, surgeons, nurses and corpsman stand in harm’s way, always at the ready to save the lives of our frontline troops

They live as close to the action as possible. It’s a life of hurry up and wait. But with few luxuries available in a combat zone, they pass the time sitting on tires, playing cards and eating MRE’s.

True to our mission, the USO recently provided much needed furniture, toiletries, energy drinks and entertainment to lift the spirits of the 629th Forward Surgical Team at FOB Orgun-E, on the eastern border of Afghanistan. The unit received a USO2GO shipment which included coffee makers, video games, bean bag chairs and more, bringing them a much-needed touch of home.

“We can’t thank the USO enough,” said Army Capt. Phyllis Thieken of the 629th FST. “We are a team of medics, doctors, CRNAs [Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists] and nurses who are devoted to taking care of the wounded, and it makes me feel good to know that with the help of the USO, we are able to help other soldiers here on the FOB.”

The medical team is using the care package to further pay it forward to Special Operators passing through their base.

“Some come here just to get a shower after being out on missions,” she added. “By supplying simple packets of Gatorade to these guys who have been eating MREs, we get such a good feeling. Their faces light up over Gatorade!”

“Little things like furniture—comfortable places to sit—are often taken for granted out here. Most every piece of furniture is hand built from scrap wood and sleeping mats. Outside we were sitting on tires, so with the folding chairs and bean-bag chairs you gave us, we’re now able to actually sit and be comfortable, especially when we have meetings or training as a group. It’s made a huge difference in our everyday lives.”

Right now the unit is engaged in a fierce Call of Duty tournament on the X-Box 360. The combat shooter has been a constant source of rivalry within the unit and gives them something to look forward to each day.

“That X-Box is hands down the most coveted piece of equipment in that box,” said Thieken. “If that thing broke we would have a riot on our hands. It’s our number one source of entertainment, and it really helps us pass the time.” –  Joseph Andrew Lee, USO Staff Writer

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Priceless Gift for a New Father

Army Spc. Corbin Wright watches the birth of his baby girl via Skype from the USO center at Camp Marmal, Afghanistan.

Though he’s only 23 years old, Army Specialist Corbin Wright has always wanted to be a father.

He never imagined he would miss the birth of his first child.

But while his fiancée was in the delivery room at a Texas Hospital this spring, Wright was thousands of miles away serving at Camp Marmal in northern Afghanistan.

It was a bitter disappointment for a new father who had tracked every moment of the pregnancy and talked about nothing else for months.

“I wanted to see everything!” he says.

Wright, a logistics specialist, believed he would make it home before his daughter arrived, but fate seemed to conspire against him.

“I was trying to be financially stable for my child so I [re-enlisted] for another four years,” he says.

That decision pushed back his departure date from Afghanistan. Meantime doctors at home recommended an emergency C-section, moving up the baby’s delivery date by several weeks.

Wright volunteers at the Marmal USO, and when center director Michael Eyassu heard what was happening, he sprang into action, arranging a Skype connection in a private room to allow father, mother and baby to spend their first moments together as a new family.

The whole setup took some planning—Skype is not an everyday convenience in a combat zone.

Most troops cannot access Skype on the secure computers at their work stations. They can purchase internet service from a commercial provider but it’s unreliable and expensive—upwards of $100 per month. Even if you pay for a connection, soldiers at Marmal live in group tents and have nowhere to go for a private conversation.

The USO offers free phone and internet to troops, but Eyassu says “Skype is blocked [at the Marmal center] because we don’t have enough bandwidth to support it. So when we have special events, we have to contact our internet service provider to unblock it.”

That extra effort was a priceless gift for Wright.  Just after his baby arrived by C-section on April 23rd, he watched as the doctor placed little Korlea Santrice in his fiancée’s arms.

“Whew! That’s my baby!” he thought.

“Skyping meant everything to me, because it felt like I was in the room right there with her.”

Korlea weighed just over five pounds and everyone thinks she looks just like her daddy.

Wright is grateful for those precious moments—watching his newborn take her first breaths, hearing her first cries and seeing for himself that she was safe and healthy. But he longs for so much more.

“To give her a big kiss, hold her. I want to feed her,” he says. “She loves when she’s getting fed, and I could talk to her while I’m feeding her. And she could recognize me, hopefully recognize my voice and my touch and my smell.”

One bright spot for Wright is that he’s scheduled to be home in time to celebrate Father’s Day with his baby girl. Many other deployed fathers have to wait months before they can see and hold their babies.

“There’s a lot of people like that in my unit, that weren’t able to get home for the birth of their child,” says Wright, “Because they’re out here serving our country.”  - Malini Wilkes, USO Director of Story Development

The USO arranges Skype connections at bases around the world to bring deployed fathers into the delivery room. This Father’s Day, give the gift of a Skype connection to a military dad, or choose another gift for your own father from the USO Father’s Day Wishbook