Special Spring Moments at the USO

USO Helps 2 Deployed Soldiers Witness Birth of Sons via Skype

AFGHANISTAN–USO Bagram had the special pleasure of helping two soldiers welcome their baby boys into the world this week via Skype!

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Spc. Kaznica and his wife welcomed their 7-pound, 14-ounce baby boy.

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Pfc. McElroy and his wife welcomed their 8 -pound son, Evan.

Spc. Kaznica, left, and his wife welcomed their 7-pound, 14-ounce baby boy and Pfc. McElroy, right, and his wife welcomed their 8-pound son, Evan. Both babies and both moms are doing well and the dads couldn’t be any prouder! The USO congratulates the Kaznica and McElroy families!

 

Mobile USO Deploys, Supplies Refreshments to Air Force Trials

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. — Wounded warriors came together April 7-11 to compete at the inaugural Air Force trials competition at the Warrior Fitness Center and USO volunteers were there to supply an oasis of refreshments and support.

The trials are an adaptive sports camp used to identify which athletes will be selected as members of the Air Force Warrior Games team and compete against other military branches in September. Athletes competed in seven different events including archery, cycling, track and field, swimming, shooting, wheelchair basketball and seated volleyball.

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USO, Tampa Bay Buccaneers Host game on Nation

On April 18, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the USO hosted Air Force Command Chief Master Sgt. Tommy Mazzone and other high-ranking officials from MacDill Air Force Base for a game on Nation seminar at One Buccaneer Place. The seminar focused on leadership, teamwork and communication. Watch the clip now on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ website. 

From Enlisted to VIP: Trio of USO Events Turn Troops into Guests of Honor

This September, we’ve helped treat recovering troops to an exclusive meet-and-greet, distributed tickets for an exclusive basketball game and brought some accomplished cartoonists downrange to create some exclusive drawings.

Here’s a look at a few USO news items – from New York to Ohio and all the way to Afghanistan – that have happened the last few weeks:

Jon Stewart Hosts Recovering Troops During USO Visit

A group of wounded, ill and injured troops and their guests meet with "The Daily Show" host Jon Stewart, center, in New York City on Thursday. Stewart hosted the USO outing. USO photo

A group of wounded, ill and injured troops and their guests meet with “The Daily Show” host Jon Stewart, center, in New York City on Thursday. Stewart hosted the USO outing. USO photo

Jon Stewart, the popular anchor of Comedy Central’s long-running “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,” hosted a USO contingent of wounded, ill and injured troops at the show’s New York City studio on Thursday. Comedians from “The Daily Show” – including summer interim host John Oliver – recently visited troops downrange, too.

Cleveland Cavaliers Turn Annual Exhibition into Military-Only Event

The NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers’ annual Wine and Gold game – the intra-squad scrimmage that traditionally kicks off their preseason – will be a private event this year for troops and their families. Tickets for the game, which will be played at Baldwin Wallace University, will be distributed through the USO of Northern Ohio.

Toons for the Troops in Afghanistan

Army Spc. Jovi Prevot of the Mississippi Army National Guard has his caricature made by two-time Pulitzer Prize winning editorial cartoonist Michael Ramirez on Sept. 6 in Kandahar, Afghanistan. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Scott Tynes

Army Spc. Jovi Prevot of the Mississippi Army National Guard has his caricature made by two-time Pulitzer Prize winning editorial cartoonist Michael Ramirez on Sept. 6 in Kandahar, Afghanistan. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Scott Tynes

A group of eight National Cartoonist Society artists visited troops in Afghanistan on a USO tour earlier this month. See this DVIDS story for more details.

OEF Crisis Hotline Gives Stressed Troops an Outlet Downrange

More than 1,000 runners came out for the OEF Crisis Hotline 5K, hosted May 24 at six USO Centers in Afghanistan. USO photos by Eric Raum

More than 1,000 runners came out for the OEF Crisis Hotline 5K, hosted May 24 at six USO Centers across Afghanistan. USO photos by Eric Raum

It was a run for those who feel trapped.

Six USO centers in Afghanistan hosted more than 1,000 total runners for a 5K on May 24 to promote the OEF Crisis Hotline, a downrange-based call center troops can contact if they are dealing with stress or other mental health issues. The hotline has two mental health professionals on duty 24 hours a day.

The USO – which has been advertising the hotline to troops via posters at downrange centers – provided prizes for the top three male and female finishers.

Sgt. Kristian Patino of the Army’s 254th Medical Detachment said the hotline fills a void downrange and is modeled off a similar system the Department of Veterans Affairs operates stateside.

“It is peer support in its purest form,” Patino said. “You have service members here in Afghanistan going through the same struggles and dealing with the same issues as whoever would be calling in, so they are able to connect with the caller and relate to them.”

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The hotline – which was originally run by the 254th Medical Detachment in Kandahar – is now operated by the Army’s 85th Combat Operational Stress Control Detachment out of Bagram.

Patino believes the hotline makes a difference.

“One instance, a woman called in and was very frantic, in a complete panic and crying,” Patino said. “When we were done, it was a day and night shift. We worked through relaxation techniques and talked through what was troubling her.”

Troops downrange can reach the OEF Crisis Hotline the following ways:

Stateside troops and veterans can reach the VA’s Military Crisis Line by dialing 1-800-273-8255 and then pressing 1. Europe-based troops can reach the Military Crisis Line by dialing 00800 1273 8255 on regular phones or 118 on DSN lines.

–Story by Eric Raum and Eric Brandner, USO

USO Brings Mother’s Day Treatment to Kandahar-Based Troops

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Mom doesn’t get much thanks downrange.

The USO Southwest Regional Team understood this, and went out of their way to give a special thanks to the women of Kandahar Airfield’s Role 3 Trauma Hospital with a spa day on Sunday.

“These ladies work long hours on their feet and have little time to pamper themselves,” USO Southwest Asia wrote on its Facebook page.

The spa experience included manicures, pedicures, facials and massages. More than 100 treatments were provided.

Check out USO Southwest Asia’s Facebook page for more details.

-Story by USO Story Development

A Journey to Brotherhood

“Brotherhood is not defined by the bond of blood, but the common tint of the soul” – Frisco Cruise

I’ve watched enough war movies and sports themed dramas to realize that the bonds of brotherhood run deep, but growing up in a household of four women, I never had the opportunity to see those bonds forming in real life.  Well, that was until my recent trip to Kuwait and Germany as part of the weeklong Power 106 & Nick Cannon N’Credible All-Star USO Basketball Tour.

Ready to play some ball!

Ready to play some ball!

Think seven guys (platinum recording artist Baby Bash, Power 106 radio personalities Big Boy, DJ E-man and DJ Thirty Two, actors Arlen Escarpeta and NaNa as well as professional athlete Michael “AirDogg” Stewart) and me, the lone female, packed into one vehicle and you get the story of how I learned about brotherhood on a bus in Kuwait.

A team of 20, we were divided into two groups.  The first included multi-faceted entertainer Nick Cannon and artists from his N’Credible record label Kristinia DeBarge, boy band 4Count and hip-hop artists PWD, and we were the second group.  The objective of the trip, boost troop morale with some good-old fashioned team competition – basketball, anyone?

Our first stop was Camp Buehring in Kuwait.  Our mode of transportation, two 12-passenger vehicles.  Travel time, two hours.  As we headed toward our destination, I was unaware that I was undertaking a journey all my own.

The bus was alive with chatter.   From the Power 106 players recalling their “best of” moments on the court to USO tour veterans Baby Bash and Big Boy reliving their previous USO tour together, it seemed that every sentence began with “Remember that game…” or “Remember that time when…” followed by the laughter that can only come from shared memories.   And then there was me, quietly listening because it was clear that what was happening here was the same thing that could’ve been happening in locker rooms thousands of miles away, or here in Kuwait, in the middle of the dessert where the soldier next to you quickly becomes the brother who protects you – a brotherhood was forming.   And in what seemed like a blink of an eye, two hours had passed and we had arrived at our destination.

Screen Shot 2013-05-09 at 2.02.46 PMGame time and its standing room only on the outdoor basketball court. A sandstorm on the horizon and you could feel the energy and excitement from both teams.  Cheers and laughter erupted from the sidelines as Big Boy emceed the game, and if it weren’t for the glare of reflector belts, the camouflaged uniforms and the blast walls, I could have been watching any pick-up game at a neighborhood court.

Both teams played hard and it was the Power 106/N”Credible team who finished with top points.  At the end of the game, players from both teams met center court to shake hands, hug and extend their compliments for a game well played. These men and women had sweated together, competed with and against each other, laughed with each other and from what I could tell neither team walked away with winning or losing on their mind, it was the experience they were taking away with them.

As we loaded into our buses and I settled back into my seat of anonymity, the chatter began again but this time it wasn’t about past experiences.  It was about the day, the people they’d met, the servicemen and women they played against and how the experience had changed their lives.  It was clear that being able to say ‘thank you’ to our troops, to bring them a break from their day-to-day activities and to hear from our servicemen and women how much that meant to them, was something that would forever connect these men to our troops.

Screen Shot 2013-05-09 at 2.01.53 PMOften we think that something really big has to happen to have an impact on our lives, but sometimes it’s a combination of experiences that do the trick.  Being able to listen and watch as these men grew closer over their experience, combined with my own history with the military – hearing from troops how during deployments your fellow soldiers become your family –made me realize that there are brothers who we are born to love, and those whose bonds are forged in experience.  And those kinds of bonds don’t take a lifetime to make, sometimes the time it takes to play a basketball game or travel from one point to another is all you need.

We can’t all go to the places our troops are deployed to show our support, but there are ways that we as Americans can let them know that we are always by their side, and that we recognize the sacrifices they make to serve our country.  To find out how you can help visit us online at www.uso.org.   - Sharee Posey, USO Senior Communications Specialist 

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!