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Medal of Honor Recipient Rides Shotgun with Roush Fenway Racing’s Trevor Bayne at NASCAR Nationwide Series

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PHOENIX–With Veterans Day approaching, Rouch Fenway Racing and USO Arizona teamed up to kick off this year’s festivities with a roar.

Roush Fenway Racing driver Trevor Bayne, had two special additions on his No. 6 AdvoCare Ford Mustang at this weekend’s NASCAR Nationwide Series (NNS) event at Phoenix International Raceway to honor those who have served.

In addition to featuring the USO logo on the side and back of his vehicle, Bayne sported Medal of Honor recipient Fred Ferguson’s name on his passenger door. Bayne, who finished ninth in the race, also took a moment to give troops a shout before hitting the track this weekend.

In addition to meeting Bayne and seeing his name on the car, Ferguson, who received the Medal of Honor in 1969 for actions in Vietnam, was formally recognized at the pre-race driver’s meeting with a standing ovation.

Ferguson enjoyed VIP treatment throughout the day Saturday, thanks to Rouch Fenway Racing. He along with Air Force Maj. Gen. Michael  McGuire, USAA Executive Director Military Affinity and retired Marine Lt. Col. Bob Wiedower and other guests got an exclusive behind-the-scenes view of raceday action.

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The Challenge of Sharing: For Caregivers, Opening Up isn’t Always the Easiest Thing

Virginia Peacock, an Elizabeth Dole Foundation Fellow, laughs during a presentation Thursday at the USO Caregivers Conference in Fayetteville, North Carolina. USO photo by Eric Brandner

Virginia Peacock, an Elizabeth Dole Foundation Fellow, laughs during a presentation Thursday at the USO Caregivers Conference in Fayetteville, North Carolina. USO photo by Eric Brandner

FAYETTEVILLE, North Carolina—When Virginia Peacock’s husband David meets another wounded combat veteran, he asks them where they were Medevaced from.

He could have been the guy on the flight taking care of them.

Now, Virginia’s the one taking care of him.

Virginia Peacock led a breakout session Thursday at the USO Caregivers Conference where she and other caregivers of wounded, ill and injured service members swapped experiences. As the current Elizabeth Dole Foundation fellow from South Carolina, Peacock devotes some of her time to advocating for caregivers’ rights and recognition. On Thursday, she reminded her peers how powerful it can be just to share their stories.

“The one thing that we are all really bad at is telling our own story,” Peacock said. “We had to be told over and over [during a lobbying trip to Capitol Hill] to stop telling our husband’s stories and start telling our own stories. … It’s a hard lesson to learn.”

The latest chapter in Peacock’s story is in its seventh year. As a registered nurse, she had a career she loved when David – a combat flight medic – was injured on his 11th and final post-9/11 deployment. His severe shoulder problems were the only aliments that stood out at first. But after a while, invisible wounds started surfacing. Memory issues. Balance problems. Suicidal thoughts.

Virginia said she tried to keep home life status quo, continuing her full-time nursing career while also caring for a now-injured husband and a young son. But with so many new challenges, her own cloud of depression set in.

She left that job and started rebuilding her family life. Now in a much better place (and back to work as a pediatric nurse with more flexible hours), she is sharing resiliency lessons with other caregivers and raising awareness for their cause.

At the top of her list: teaching caregivers to share their stories not only with political change agents, but also with someone who supports them.

“You’ve got to find your person who gets it [to share your stories with],” she said.

Building Confidence

Steve Shenbaum

Steve Shenbaum

Steve Shenbaum makes people have fun.

It’s not forced. It’s friendly.

“That’s wack,” he said in the middle of his first group game at Thursday’s USO Caregivers Conference, pausing to chuckle at himself.

“I just said wack in a presentation,” he said, momentarily breaking character and drawing belly laughs throughout the room. “Bucket list!”

Shenbaum, who founded gameon Nation in 1997, has been motivating and entertaining at USO Caregivers Conferences since the event’s inception.

It may seem counterintuitive to try to bring people who are so used to passionately advocating for an injured loved one out of their shell. And most times, he finds willing participants. But the live-action parables he brings to the group with games like 1-2-3, Dimmer Switch and Expert Speaker both lighten the mood and make caregivers think about how they’ll calibrate their attitudes and communication approaches when they get home.

“You know what’s fun?” Shenbaum asked the group “Fun is hiding and being found. Fun is taking a risk and not being bonked.”

Quotable

“Sometimes you’ve got to stop chopping wood to sharpen the ax.” –Army Col. Ron Stephens, commander of Womak Army Medical Center, addressing the general session at the USO Caregivers Conference on the importance of taking time for oneself.

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Trace Adkins and Casey James Thank Troops Before Performing at Fort Hood

Before hitting the stage to perform for military families at a free concert at Fort Hood, Texas, this weekend, nine-time USO veteran Trace Adkins took a moment to thank troops around the world for their service.

Country music newcomer Casey James, who opened the concert for Adkins, also gave a quick shout out to troops before the show began.

The concert, sponsored by the USO, Fort Hood MWR and Pentagon Federal Credit Union (PenFed), featured nearly three hours of music at Fort Hood Stadium.

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$11 for 11/11: How You Can Have a Direct Effect on Troops This Veterans Day

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The USO is about giving simple things to the troops and military families who need us most. A snack while traveling. A listening ear in a time of crisis. Providing a happy memory — or just a moment of escape — in a harrowing time.

For just $11, you can create experiences like these this Veterans Day:

Find out more at USOmoments.org.

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‘I’ve Got Their Back’: Trace Adkins Gears Up to Perform a USO Show at Fort Hood

Multi-platinum country music recording artist, Trace Adkins. Photo courtesy Trace Adkins

Multi-platinum country music recording artist Trace Adkins. Courtesy photo

When Trace Adkins steps off stage after performing in Fort Hood, Texas, this Saturday, he knows he will feel the guilt. It’s a guilt the eight-time USO tour veteran says he feels after every USO show.

“You’ll never find a more appreciative audience than the members of the military,” Adkins said. “Every USO tour I’ve been on, I leave there feeling a little guilty every time. I always feel like they gave me more than I gave them. And it’s always felt like that.”

The multi-platinum country artist, who previously performed at Fort Hood during the 2010 WWE and NBC ‘Tribute to the Troops,’ says there’s something special about entertaining troops and their families that he’s looking forward to experiencing again at Saturday’s show, sponsored by PenFed Credit Union.

“[The band] just play[s] and we’ll dance and sing and laugh and clap and all have a good time, you know?” Adkins said. “And just, for a few minutes [the troops] get to just be at a concert. And not have to worry too much about the day gig.”

In addition to providing troops with an escape, Adkins, who’s entertained over 39,700 military family members on USO tours since 2002, hopes that his concerts give military members, especially those deployed overseas, a much-needed taste of home.

“Hopefully we’ll do something, we’ll do a hit that they were listening to on the radio when they were riding around in the truck in their hometown,” Adkins said. “And those kind of things trigger memories for people and make them feel just a little closer to home. You know? That’s what we hope to be able to bring them.”

Most importantly, Adkins, who’s smash hits include “You’re Gonna Miss This” and “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk,” says that he hopes troops who attend Saturday’s show will leave with their morale boosted and smiles on their faces.

“I just want them to know that I support them 100 percent. That I’ve got their back,” Adkins said. “They’ve always had mine.”

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After 73 Years, USO Fort Drum Bids Farewell to Longtime Volunteer Mary Parry

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After 73 years, Mary Parry’s volunteer mission at the USO is officially complete.

Earlier this month, Parry, 91, moved to a retirement home in Ohio to be closer to her daughter, Barbara Miller, and will no longer be able to serve at the USO Fort Drum center in upstate New York.

The Geneva, New York, native, who has volunteered at many different USO centers, will be sorely missed.

“I think of Mary as a national treasure,” USO Fort Drum Director Karen Clark wrote in an email. “She started volunteering for the USO in 1941, worked at the Watertown Chamber for years, and volunteered with Rotary, the Salvation Army and Red Cross.”

Parry’s volunteer career at the USO began in 1941, just after she graduated high school.

As the American Profile reported in 2008:

Parry was 18 when she and her girlfriends signed up to help at a USO center housed in a former automobile showroom in her hometown of Geneva, N.Y. (pop. 13,617).

“The fellas were all joining the military,” she says. “So we thought, ‘Hey, we’ll go down there and dance. What else are we gonna do?’ Were we in for a rude awakening.”

[…] Over the decades, the jovial Parry has volunteered at several USO centers while living in various towns in the Northeast with her husband, Walter. In fact, when she moved to Watertown in 1959, Parry spotted a USO sign in a downtown window and soon she was running the place. When the building closed, she operated the organization out of her home, hosting cookouts for servicemen and sometimes taking in weary soldiers for the night to give them a small taste of home.

USO Fort Drum Director Karen Clark poses in front of a portrait of Mary Parry in 2008. The portrait still hangs in the USO Fort Drum center today. USO photo by Jason Cutshaw

Parry’s daughter, Barbara Miller, who’s father served in the Navy, says Parry loved every moment she spent volunteering for the USO and has many stories from her years of service.

“The USO was her life. It was totally her life,” Miller said.

Thank you, Mary Parry, for your decades of service to troops and their families.

Want to learn more about Marry Parry and her service? Check out this 2010 USO blog post about honoring Parry and thanking her for her service.