A Moment Amid a Milestone: USO and What to Expect Creates a Big Day for Military Moms in the D.C. Area

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SPRINGFIELD, Virginia–Sometimes in life’s biggest moments, it’s the little things that matter most.

Military moms are often far away from family and friends during their pregnancies. Knowing this, the USO and the What to Expect Foundation partner to host Special Delivery baby showers to give these moms a moment of appreciation.

This week, more than 100 new moms and moms-to-be attended Special Delivery baby showers for the Fort Belvoir, Virginia, and Fort Meade, Maryland, military communities.

“It means a lot [to be here],” said Tanya Gehrig at one of this week’s baby showers. Gehrig is a Navy spouse and a proud mom of two sons, including one who was born just 12 days ago. “At this table, I was really able to meet some ladies that I could connect with. It was nice to just meet all of these people.”

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Army Maj. Mia Bruner, who is expecting her third child, said she was excited to participate in the event.

“Actually, when I was pregnant with my second child, I saw that they invited pregnant soldiers to these baby showers and really wished I could have attended then,” she said. “I was really happy when I was chosen for this event with this pregnancy.”

Special Delivery attendees enjoyed baby shower games, lunch and baby item raffles. Toward the end of the event, best-selling “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” series author Heidi Murkoff held a candid Q&A, giving advice and tips on topics from pregnancy through a child’s first years. Murkoff even recognized moms in the audience she’d met through the “What to Expect” Facebook page. Murkoff concluded the event with a meet and greet and book signing for the moms in attendance.

The new moms also left with gift bags that included hygiene items for their babies and a storybook. It may not have seemed like a lot, but it made a huge difference to attendees.

“I feel like I should have known that I would need items, but at these events, even the little things help,” Gehrig said. “Some people got big things like strollers and Pack’N Plays [through the raffles], but it means a lot to get a little bottle of lotion and shampoo. It’s one less thing I have to worry about when I am running out to the store. That stuff means a lot to me.”

–By Jessica Battaglia

Broadway Star Idina Menzel Gives Troops Holiday Shout Out at USO Meet and Greet in NYC

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NEW YORK— It was a magical morning.

On Nov. 24, the USO teamed up with Broadway star Idina Menzel to help three military families kick off their holiday season with songs, smiles and laughter at a special USO meet-and-greet.

“Each family had the most adorable children,” Menzel said. “I got to get to know them a little bit and tell them how much I appreciate the sacrifices they make.

“I also recognize how difficult the holidays can be when they’re apart, so any kind of laughter or joy I could bring to the situation was nice.”

Menzel also took a moment during the meet-and-greet to thank troops for their sacrifice and service.


In addition to meeting Menzel and getting VIP access to her Bloomingdale’s Holiday Concert and Window Unveiling show, the families enjoyed a day full of food and fun in New York City, including a pizza lunch and a trip to Dylan’s Candy Bar.

“It’s been great that I’ve been able to experience these things,” said Michelle Moore, a military spouse attending the day’s events. “My husband’s in Bahrain and all my kids, especially my son, he says he misses his dad a lot. And it’s really nice when we can do other things that are cool and interesting to make the time go faster.”

Check out the video below to see the entire day’s events.

7 Ways the USO is Helping Wounded, Ill and Injured Troops and Their Families Right Now

It’s Mission: Recovery week here at the USO. But instead of telling you about how your support helps troops and their families, we wanted to show you.

Here are seven video stories that get at the heart of what we do for the people who need us most, from our new state-of-the-art centers for recovering troops and their families all the way to our unique programs and the kits we create for recently injured troops in the field.

1. The Impact of USO Warrior and Family Centers

Our two new centers — on hospital campuses at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, and Bethesda, Maryland — give recovering troops dozens of opportunities to both relax and plan their futures.

2. The USO Wounded Warrior Gym at Fort Hood

Wounded troops in Texas wanted a place to get their strength back. We listened.

3. Warrior Care Packs for Recently Injured Troops

When you’re injured in the field, there’s no time to pack a bag. The USO packs contain items that allow our troops to heal with some of the comforts of home.

4. USO/Renovating Hope: Rebuilding Lives by Rebuilding Homes

The Gardon family served our country. When they needed a hand, the USO and its partners were there to help.

5. USO Caregivers Conferences Make an Impact on Families

The USO has found a way to serve and re-energize those who are silently caring for loved ones affected by visible and invisible wounds of war.

6. Project Sanctuary and the Fight Against PTSD

The DeGrace family talks about finding hope again.

7. The USO Journey

What the USO is all about, including helping troops and families when they need us most.

Celebrities Hit the Road to Visit Troops on the USO Chairman’s Holiday Tour

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We’ve got the first pictures from this year’s USO Chairman’s Holiday Tour!

The six-day, five-country USO tour led by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey features country music artist and eight-time USO tour veteran entertainer Kellie Pickler, actor/comedian Rob Riggle, “Glee” co-star Dianna Agron, former Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher, “Suits” co-star Meghan Markle, Washington Nationals pitcher Doug Fister and USO President and CEO J.D. Crouch II.

Check back here and on USO.org’s entertainment news page all week to see more photos from the tour.

Retired National Guard Colonel Gives to the USO for His Two Veteran Sons

Hal Harrington is a retired Army National Guard colonel currently working for the federal government. He has two sons — one officer and one enlisted — who both deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.

When it came time to give to the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC) this year, his choice of charity was clear.

“I’m always critical, you know, of charity organizations,” said Harrington, who served more than 30 years in the Michigan National Guard, the same organization in which his sons served. “The USO is one I don’t even have to think about. In fact, when I sent my boys off to their basic schools, the USO was part of my safety brief to them. I’d say, ‘Here’s where you’re flying and here’s where you’re going, and here’s the airports that have USO facilities, so stop in and use them.’”

After Harrington retired from the Michigan National Guard, he worked in the private sector for several decades until the economy took a dip in the late 2000s. That’s when he took a job working for the federal government once again, and he was happy to see the CFC had evolved to make giving much easier.

“I’d get those things in the mail for the USO and I donated that way,” Harrington said. “But the CFC made it really easy to give to the organizations I already gave to.”

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The CFC is the world’s largest and most successful annual workplace charity campaign. Pledges made by federal civilian and military personnel during the campaign season (Sept. 1 to Dec. 15) bring in millions of dollars to support nonprofit organizations that provide health and human service benefits throughout the world.

“My hat is off to [the USO] for doing what [it does],” Harrington said. “You go into those airports and sometimes there are two people there and sometimes there’s 10, and sometimes there’s 30 with duffel bags waiting to go. It doesn’t matter what airport you’re in — Atlanta, Denver, Durham … — there’s always service people and there’s always the USO where we know they are being taken care of.”

“If I can support them in any way, shape or form through [the USO] I will — and I do.”

The USO is CFC #11381. 

How the USO Served Thanksgiving Dinner to Troops Around the World

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Thanksgiving is a unique time of year when the phrase “comforts of home” means something very specific to America’s troops and their families: a full turkey dinner with all the fixings.

It’s also one of those moments when you can see the full breadth and reach of the USO and its volunteers.

Come along on a journey with us, from Kaiserslautern, Germany to Kandahar, Afghanistan to San Francisco to witness the true heart and passion of the USO in action — generous Americans working together with the military to bring the simple comfort of a Thanksgiving meal to our troops and their families wherever they may be stationed.

USO Kaiserslautern, Germany

On Nov. 22, USO Kaiserslautern hosted its 16th annual Thanks for Thanksgiving event at the Vogelweh commissary. This year, 630 junior enlisted soldiers, airmen and sailors received a free takeout meal from the USO and the community as a way to thank them for their service. Each meal consisted of a turkey, roasting pan, pie, dinner rolls, stuffing, gravy, mashed potatoes, peas, sweet potatoes and cranberries. Each service member attendee also received a $25 gift card from Service Credit Union to purchase additional food items, a 100-minute calling card, a Stars and Stripes newspaper and Disney DVDs for the kids. All of the meals were bagged up and handed out by Army and Air Force enlisted leadership.

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Landstuhl Regional Medical Center USO, Germany

On Nov. 25, Landstuhl Regional Medical Center USO hosted its annual Thanksgiving Grazing event, bringing smiles to the faces of staff members, patients and service members by providing a traditional Thanksgiving meal to approximately 250 guests.

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USO Camp Arifjan, Kuwait

Unsure if just one person can make a difference? In Kuwait, it’s USO donors like Vicki Hitzfeld whose gift of Thanksgiving decorations made a huge difference for troops stationed away from home over the holiday.

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USO Kandahar, Afghanistan

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USO Bagram, Afghanistan

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USO Northwest

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USO Denver

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USO Hawaii

While the weather may not have a Thanksgiving chill at USO Hawaii, there’s no question what time of year it is judging by the supplies in stock via USO donors and volunteers.

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USO Bay Area

The World Series Champion San Francisco Giants brought home yet another big win for the troops. This week, the director of the Kansas City International Airport paid up on a friendly World Series wager with the director of the San Francisco International Airport — 100 pounds of chocolate for USO Bay Area!

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USO Guam

The 9th Annual USO Guam Thanksgiving Feast attracted a huge crowd this year. Look at all those hungry people waiting to dig in!

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USO San Diego

At USO San Diego, traveling troops and families passing through our airport center were treated to a full-on Thanksgiving feast. Follow this link to watch the local news coverage.

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USO Rhein Main (Germany)

At USO Rhein Main, the staff surprised 130 troops and their families waiting in line at the dining facility with gift certificates covering the entire cost of their Thanksgiving meal.Screen Shot 2014-12-01 at 12.16.52 PM

USO Okinawa (Japan)

At USO Camp Hansen, troops lined up for a free meal on Thanksgiving Day. The homemade food provided by the USO was served to service members who are thousands of miles away from home.

Thanksgiving kicks off at Camp Hansen USO

USO of Northern Florida

Follow this link to see a great video about how the USO of Northern Florida fed as many as 2,000 troops!

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USO of Central Florida

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USO of North Carolina

With several military bases in the North Carolina region, there’s a whole lot of mouths to feed. Fortunately for the troops, there are a lot of USO volunteers who made sure none of them went hungry this Thanksgiving.

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USO of Metropolitan Washington-Baltimore

Thanksgiving activities have been taking place for weeks in the Washington area, from formal dinners at each of the Warrior and Family Centers to Thanksgiving care packages sent out to troops in myriad locations around the globe. Here’s just a few of the many troops who received Thanksgiving gift baskets from USO of Metropolitan Washington-Baltimore.

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USO El Paso

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Liberty USO (Philadelphia area)

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USO of South Texas

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USO Vicenza (Italy)

USO Vicenza had an entire buffet waiting for their hungry patrons. A long line of zesty rice, stuffing, macaroni and cheese, corn bread, sweet rolls, ham and turkey stood in front of them, and they didn’t waste a minute before devouring it. Everyone dug in and left with full stomachs. By the end of the night, the only evidence of food left was two lonely turkey wings.

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USO Dallas-Fort Worth

In Dallas, the Gary Sinise Foundation joined with the local USO to host a Thanksgiving Dinner!

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