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3 Drops of Knowledge: Numbers About the USO on National Coffee Day

Eight ounces of water flows through a K-Cup in Kandahar. A bag of Boca Java gets ripped open near the Pentagon. A sip of Starbucks hits a weary traveler’s lips in a stateside airport.

For 73 years, the USO has been by the side of America’s troops and their families. And that often results in offering them a cup of coffee. On National Coffee Day, here are three numbers to know involving the USO’s coffee distribution.

4,936

That’s how many pounds of coffee Starbucks donates to USO locations in the Mideast so far this year. When you add in the 4,600 K-Cups and 400 VIA instant coffee packets, that’s 11,850 cups of just donated Starbucks coffee for troops downrange to date this year, not including the other in-kind donations those locations receive.

1,440

That’s the number of coffee makers the USO2GO program has shipped troops at remote locations across the globe over the eight year’s of the program’s existence. These USO-in-a-box-style shipments also include 100 pounds of coffee upon request. They may not have many comforts of home, but thanks to the modern marvel of shipping (and airdrops), they have the ability to make a cup of joe.

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The number of continents where the USO currently serves coffee: North America, Asia, Europe and Africa. It’ll be five, soon (we’re looking at you, Australia).

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The Words Behind the Record: What People Said About Signing the USO Every Moment Counts Flag

A word cloud based on the responses of nearly 500 people who signed the USO's Every Moment Counts flag.

A word cloud based on the responses of nearly 500 people who signed the USO’s Every Moment Counts flag.

Country. Served. Proud.

These are just some of the words that appeared most in an unscientific analysis of nearly 500 Every Moment Counts flag signers who shared their reasoning with us. The USO campaign earlier this year broke the Guinness World Record for most signatures on a flag with 115,405.

The flag will have a prominent place this weekend at Dover International Speedway during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AAA 400. It was officially unveiled at the Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati on Sept. 11, and again Sept. 13 at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts.

Here are a few of the hundreds of responses the we we received when we asked online signers to tell us why they put their names on the flag:

  • “[We signed] to be a part of history. To honor our military, both present and past.” -Mike and Sharai Coffey
  • “[I signed] for my dad, who can’t. He died in 2005, was the last WWII vet in our small town.” -Nikki Jennings
  • “As a veteran, I can’t begin to count the times the USO was there when I needed them. This was one small way to show current and future veterans that we once served and always serve! God bless the U.S. Armed Forces!” -Donald Cota

(Editors note: Submissions lightly edited for style)

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Sesame Street / USO Experience for Military Families Cast Members Share Their Favorite Tour Memories

Grover, Cookie Monster, Katie, Elmo, Honker and  Rosita sing and dance for service members and their kids during The Sesame Street/USO Experience for Military Families which kicked off April 7, 2012 at Scott Air Force Base. (USO photo by Fred Greaves)

Grover, Cookie Monster, Katie, Elmo, Honker and Rosita entertain service members and their kids during The Sesame Street/USO Experience for Military Families on April 7, 2012 at Scott Air Force Base. (USO photo by Fred Greaves)

Since 2008, the Sesame Street/USO Experience for Military Families tour has made unforgettable memories for military children and their families all around the world. The longest-running annual USO tour has delivered moments to hundreds of thousands of military children and their parents through more than 735 shows at more than 144 military bases in 11 countries.

In the spirit of the USO’s Every Moment Counts campaign — and in preparation for entertaining the tour’s 500,000th audience member — members of the 2014 cast and crew shares some their favorite Sesame Street/USO Experience memories.

Here’s just a small sample of the amazing stories they had to tell:

“My favorite moment actually happened in Spain. … A little girl came up, she gave me a picture to give to Elmo. I brought it backstage, gave it to Elmo, and the picture said, ‘Thank you Elmo for coming all the way across the sea to Spain, just to see me.’ And I think it really brought home exactly how important it is for these kids to see this show.” — Stephanie Harmon, performance director

“I have many favorite moments, but one that happens every single day [is] when hundreds of kids and parents walk out with huge smiles on their faces, holding onto their Elmo spinning lights, telling me how much they enjoyed the show, and they constantly say thank you to me. Its a stream of ‘thank you’s. And since I think the show is our way of saying thank you to those same military families, it’s great to just get that cycle of thank you.” — Nicole McClendon, tour manager

Want to learn more about the Sesame Street/USO Experience for Military Families or see if a show is coming near you? Find out more here.

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Deployed Guardsman Witnesses Birth, Builds Relationship with Child, Thanks to USO

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When his Marine father deployed during Desert Storm, 3-year-old Joseph Rainbolt had no idea he would one day nearly miss moments with his own child.

“He was in Saudi Arabia for nine months when I was only 3, so I can only imagine,” said Rainbolt, now a 26-year-old sergeant in the Louisiana National Guard who might have missed the birth of his first child had it not been for the USO.

Knowing his wife Brittany would be giving birth just five months into a year-long deployment, Rainbolt told the USO and his command of his situation when he arrived in Afghanistan. When she went into labor, the USO set him up with an Internet-connected computer and Skype.

“I was able to stay [at the USO] for hours and be with my wife and see my daughter,” he said.

April Rose, now 8 months old, didn’t just get to see her father the day she was born. Rainbolt also took advantage of the USO’s Tiny Tots program and the USO/United Through Reading Military Program for the seven months that followed, allowing him to keep a presence in his daughter’s life.

“The [Tiny Tots] gift bag was fabulous,” said Brittany Rainbolt, a 26-year old high-school English teacher. “It came with some really awesome stuff. There’s some soap in there, a USO bib, a onesie and some other general baby care products. We used all of it.”

In fact, little April-Rose has even worn the bib immediately before going on stage at a “Red White and Blue” beauty pageant, where she took first place.

“It’s her lucky USO bib,” Brittany Rainbolt said. “United Through Reading was also fabulous. We got so many books for April before she was born and after she was born and I think hearing his voice helped her to make a connection with him. When she saw him the first time she went straight to him. I was like, ‘go to Daddy’ and she held out her little arms for him. It was so cute.”

“Being away was really hard,” Rainbolt said. “As National Guard, I’m usually home. Being away is not my thing. But through the USO we definitely got to have a relationship together.

“I got to talk to her every day, not just every now and then,” he added. “We’ve come a long way since the ‘80s and ‘90s. The USO was great in helping us be able to keep communicating. Even though I wasn’t there, I still got to feel like I was involved in her life, and that meant everything to me.”

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6 Things You May Be Surprised to Find Inside a USO Airport Center

Arrivals and departures boards inside the USO at JFK International Airport in New York, so troops and families don't have to guess about their flights. USO photos

Arrivals and departures boards are located inside the USO at JFK International Airport in New York, so troops and families don’t have to guess about their flights. USO photo

If you’ve served long enough, you know this drill: You’re in between flights and need a place to rest. Your bleary eyes scan the airport directory and find a USO center. You trudge down the terminal, sign in, drop your luggage, and look for a comfy chair where you can doze off.

For some troops and family members, rest is all they want or need. But for those who seek more, there’s often something special most visitors didn’t realize the USO had.

1. Video games: You’d expect our larger, on-base centers to have video games. But many of our airport centers — like two of our newer locations at Nashville International Airport and JFK International Airport in New York — have gaming systems hooked up to flat-screen monitors, too, just waiting for button-mashing troops to drop by.

2. Free sports tickets: These are rare. But if you’re a local, it never hurts to keep an eye out. Just ask Jessica Nash, who once received a pair of free tickets to a St. Louis Rams game after dropping by the USO of Missouri’s Lambert-St. Louis International Airport center. Many USO centers have relationships with area pro sports teams and occasionally get free tickets, which they distribute according to their own policies.

3. Theater-style rooms: Not every airport USO has one, but it’s a treat at those that do. The USO of Georgia has a narrow-yet-comfortable theater-style are at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport and USO of North Carolina’s Raleigh-Durham International Airport center features a plethora of cushy chairs that surround the large-screen televisions, just to name two.

4. Sandwiches: You expect coffee and snacks at USO centers. Those are USO staples. But did you know several USO centers have donation deals with airport food vendors? Depending on location (and the arrangement) those vendors may donate sandwiches, salads and more to USO centers for troops who stop by looking for a quick bite to eat.

5. Flight status boards: Worried about missing your plane? Relax. Some of our centers — including USO Las Vegas at McCarran International Airport — have arrivals and departures boards so troops and families in transit can stay informed.

6. Free neck pillows: OK, so this is an exclusive. But thanks to the generous donations by the local chapter of the World War II-era service group WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) troops and family members stopping by USO of San Diego’s Neil Ash Airport Center can pick up a free neck pillow while supplies last.

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Photos: Hunter Hayes a Huge Hit With Military Fans at His First USO Show

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Country star Hunter Hayes made a big impact at Naval Station Norfolk this week, performing his first USO show, meeting with two USO contest winners during radio appearances and greeting hundreds of fans before taking the stage.

“I can’t express in words what this first USO show was like for me,” Hayes said. “Getting to perform for all these special men and women, and their families – all of you! Thank you for your service, and for sacrificing all the little moments. We love you.”

He’ll be around the military community this fall, too. Hayes is playing another USO show in October for American troops, this time at Royal Air Force Mildenhall, England, on Oct. 11. He also says he’s excited about promoting the USO’s Every Moment Counts campaign, even donning a T-shirt with the campaign’s logo at one point Thursday.

“Every Moment Counts – I love those three words,” Hayes told the USO in an interview Tuesday. “I love that that’s what our current focus is. And the message is the fact that they give so much for us, that every moment with them, we never want to take it for granted.”

You can see more photos from Hayes’ Norfolk show on our Flickr site.