News Roundup: A Day in the Park for Stuttgart Students, Milwaukee-Area Troops

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USO volunteers and staff served food to Patch High School seniors June 4 as part of graduation week festivities. USO photo

With 72 years of practice, the USO knows how to throw a party.

And after sitting through ceremony practice last week, 170 graduating students from Patch High School in Stuttgart, Germany, needed a break.

USO Stuttgart – with help from the parents of the graduating seniors – held a barbecue for the grads June 4, with USO staff and volunteers served up hamburgers, hot dogs, sides and desserts.

When they were done eating, students were treated to an afternoon of lawn games including a water balloon toss, volleyball and croquet.

“We appreciate the USO so much for coming out and supporting the seniors,” said Sheryl Wagner, the Patch High School Guidance Department secretary and mother of a senior.

USO of Wisconsin, Milwaukee Brewers Honor Troops with Mass First Pitch

Fifty-eight troops participated in a mass first pitch May 27 at Miller Park in Milwaukee. USO photo

Fifty-eight troops participated in a mass first pitch May 27 at Miller Park in Milwaukee. USO photo

Fifty-eight people lining the infield of Miller Park were all thinking the same thing: “Just don’t let me throw it in the dirt.”

On Memorial Day, the USO of Wisconsin and the Milwaukee Brewers teamed to do something special for thousands of troops. Not only did they combine to donate and distribute 5,000 tickets to the May 27 Brewers game against the Minnesota Twins, but they also placed 58 troops on the field before the game to throw out simultaneous ceremonial first pitches.

The Brewers Community Foundation also held a 50/50 raffle that afternoon, with proceeds going to the USO of Wisconsin.

–Story by USO Story Development

Are You A Rugged Maniac? Series of Obstacle Races Support Team USO

How far are you willing to go to support our troops?

Would you leap over burning coals? Low-crawl through the mud under barbed wire? Traverse cargo netting, hop through a series of tires and navigate a balance beam over a pit?

The USO was well-represented at the May 4 Rugged Maniac 5K Obstacle Race in Richmond, Va. USO photos by Joseph Andrew Lee

The USO was well-represented at the May 4 Rugged Maniac 5K Obstacle Race in Richmond, Va. USO photos by Joseph Andrew Lee

If you want an opportunity to challenge your endurance and reach physical goals you never thought possible in support of troops and their families, then you should join Team USO this year in the Rugged Maniac 5K Obstacle Race.

“We’re very excited about the good things we can accomplish together,” said Rugged Races CEO Bradford Scudder. “The USO’s mission aligns with that of Rugged Maniac by recognizing and supporting our troops and their families.”

Rugged Maniac – which has announced 22 events in 2013 and expects more than 200,000 participants – hopes to raise $1 million in support of the USO.

“It’s a realistic goal,” Scudder said. “If each of our participants donates $5, we’ll get there. And this is a wonderful cause, so of course there will be individuals who’ll go above and beyond that $5 donation.”

As an official Team USO fundraiser, each participant’s goal is to raise $300 for troops and their families. In turn, the USO will deliver free training designed to fit each runner’s lifestyle, a fully customizable personal fundraising webpage, coaching, mentoring, registration to the event of your choice and a Team USO T-shirt to wear at the event.

From boot camp to battlefield back home again, the USO is the only organization that always stands by the side of troops and their families.

“Being able to stop in just about any airport in the United States and around the world … in every country I’ve ever been deployed to, there’s always a USO there that’s set up,” said Fort Lee NCO Academy 1st Sgt. Charles Badgley after the Rugged Maniac 5K in Richmond, Va. “It doesn’t matter if it’s a trailer, or if it’s a tent, or whatever the case may be, it gives us that touch of home, and we know that it’s almost 100 percent volunteer effort to give back to the soldiers so, it’s a really great thing.”

Team USO will enter teams in Rugged Maniac races around the country from now through December.

Team USO will enter teams in Rugged Maniac races around the country from now through December.

Team USO members are crucial to supporting that cause. On race day, they get VIP treatment including free parking and race photos from the official photographer. All the money raised by Team USO participants goes directly to their local USO.

“We’ve run in a couple of these and for us, because fitness is such a big deal, you know, and you have to make it exciting for yourself, this is one of the best ways to do it,” Badgley said. “It’s good to get out here and bang your knees up a little bit but also get a good run in at the same time.” – Joseph Andrew Lee, USO Staff Writer

Why I Volunteer: Suzy Hicks – USO Fort Drum, N.Y.

The USO is highlighting its volunteers from around the world to mark National Volunteer Week, which runs April 21-27. We asked a few of them to tell us why they give their time to the USO. Here is a reply from Suzy Hicks, a former service member, combat veteran and the current USO Volunteer of the Quarter for the Continental United States Region:

Volunteering with the USO Fort Drum is a fun and enjoyable way to give back to our service members who give so much of themselves every day.

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USO Fort Drum volunteer Suzy Hicks, center, is a former soldier who did four combat deployments. USO photo

As a prior service member, I know firsthand the value that the USO has to the troops. From a comfortable place to grab a snack or a cup of coffee on base, at an airport, or even in deployed locations, the USO volunteers can be counted on for a smile and a friendly hello. Our mission is to lift the spirit of America’s troops and their families, and that is exactly what we do at the USO Fort Drum.

The family of volunteers at USO Fort Drum is made up of civilians, family members, veterans and even soldiers who work together to keep the center running smoothly six days a week while operating numerous other events we have going at any given time. I enjoy working with my fellow volunteers towards our goal of putting a smile on our soldiers’ faces. We have so many volunteers who selflessly give hours of their time each week to be there for our troops and their families.

Perhaps the most rewarding mission that I have had the opportunity to be a part of is Here When They Land. As a USO volunteer, I am able to be one of the first people to welcome our brave heroes back from deployment. After a long journey back to the states, these soldiers are always happy to see us with our fresh hot coffee and snacks. It is an honor to personally welcome home and thank our troops for a job well done. I can’t think of a better organization to be a part of!

–Suzy Hicks, USO Fort Drum volunteer

Why I Volunteer: Capt. (Select) Mark Kleinhenz, USO of North Carolina

The USO is highlighting its volunteers from around the world to mark National Volunteer Week, which runs April 21-27. We asked a few of them to tell us why they give their time to the USO. Here is one of their replies.

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Navy Capt. (S) Mark Kleinhenz

My name is Mark Kleinhenz. I am a USO Volunteer. I am also an active reservist in the Navy. I have been proudly volunteering at the USO of North Carolina’s Charlotte Douglas International Airport center for just over a year.

It was an honor to be selected as a volunteer. It is something I plan to do for many years to come. Why? Because after 21 years of service to our country, it was time to give back to those I am so proud to serve alongside and those who have served before me.

My volunteer experience has been outstanding and rewarding to the point where I actively recruit my friends to sign up to volunteer with me. I want to share this experience because my fellow volunteers at our USO in the Charlotte airport are family, and they each feel as I do. Every time you volunteer, you see familiar faces – fellow volunteers, folks flying out for their drill weekends and other veterans who are frequent fliers. I volunteer because while I feel serving your country is important, serving those who serve our country is equally important. I get a kick out of the fact that the young soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen and spouses who come through have now idea who just made them a cup of coffee or welcomed them in the door. That is the way it should be at a USO. Rank doesn’t matter when you walk in our doors – only that you served or are serving your country.

Throughout my Navy career, I have stopped into every USO I have run across – Camp As Sayliyah in Qatar, Vicenza and Naples, Italy, both of Dallas’ excellent facilities and many others, including the two best USOs I have ever been to – the USO in Guam and our own USO of North Carolina’s Charlotte airport center. I have always received warm welcomes, something to eat or drink, a free phone call if I needed it, an Internet connection and the ability to swap out a good book out for a trip wherever I was heading. This service year after year while flying in and out of Charlotte and stopping by my USO is what motivated me to volunteer.

USO facilities are great. However, it is USO volunteers that truly make the difference. I can confidently say that USO volunteers are cut from the same cloth in every location. To a person, every volunteer does their best to make every service member – active, reserve and retired – feel special. We strive to ensure people feel welcome and are made to feel at home during their visit. If you want to do something very positive in your life, become a USO Volunteer!

–Story by Navy Capt. (Select) Mark W. Kleinhenz, USO of North Carolina volunteer

Project Cinderella

What would military families do without the strength and sacrifice of our military women?

There is no doubt that military women are a large reason why our armed forces are as strong as they are.

To honor these women, USO of Metropolitan Washington hosted its third annual Project Cinderella, an event designed to give military women a day to be pampered. From makeovers by Paul Mitchell to classes on military etiquette and dressing for one’s body, this day long event was packed with ways for military women of all ages to feel empowered and appreciated. For military moms with young daughters, USO-Metro hosted a Shabby Chic Princess Tea Party that included a book reading by Miss Maryland, lunch, arts and crafts, a manners workshop and more. The day was just what military women needed to feel rejuvenated and appreciated for their daily sacrifices. Take a look below to see how much fun everyone had and read more about the event at USO.org.

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You can see even more photos at the Fashion Delivers Facebook page.
- Sarah Camille Hipp, Communications Specialist

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