Pa. School, National Constitution Center Deliver Lessons via Veterans Day Video Chats with Troops at USO Centers

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Stacy Henry was determined to give her first graders a Veterans Day lesson to remember.

Thanks to a little persistence – and a hand from USO Bagram in Afghanistan – she was able to pull off a lesson the kids at Thaddeus Stevens Primary Center in New Castle, Pa., won’t soon forget.

“This year, with my husband being in the [Army Reserve] and two of his fellow soldiers being deployed in Afghanistan, I decided that it would be awesome to connect with them,” Henry said.

Henry’s initial plan was to virtually connect her students with Army Reserve Sgts. Michael Maurer and Joshua Reilly – both deployed to Afghanistan with the 333rd Engineer Company – for a Skype chat. Maurer and Reilly are in the same reserve unit as Henry’s husband, Sgt. Todd Henry.

While the two deployed soldiers weren’t able to get in on the event, Henry was still able to uplink her school’s gymnasium – packed with 300 first-through-third graders – to USO Bagram to speak with troops at the center on Veterans Day. Todd Henry and fellow Army Reserve Spc. Jason McCray also came to the school to be with the kids during the Skype connection. The kids read a poem, sang patriotic songs and even tried to ask a few questions of the troops on the other end of the call.

“[It was] an awesome, unforgettable, honorable, memorable event on Veterans Day, which I feel proud to be a part of,” said Stacy Henry, whose youngest son, Morgan, is a third grader at the school.

And while Maurer and Reilly missed out on the chat, they won’t be forgotten. Henry said the school was preparing care packages for the duo, and was also looking to send a large envelope full of student-written letters their way.

Constitution Center Links to Troops Downrange

Troops at USO Kandahar pose next to a Skype connection to the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia during a Veterans Day event. USO photo

Troops at USO Kandahar pose next to a Skype connection to the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia during a Veterans Day event. USO photo

USO Kandahar also got in on the Veterans Day Skype action, linking up to the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia for a Q&A with visitors.

USO Kandahar’s DJ Stanhope linked up with Liberty USO – which covers the Philadelphia region – to set up the Skype call, where visitors to the National Constitution Center got an inside view of USO Kandahar and the life of a deployed service member.

Stanhope said the highlight of the call came when two children – a boy around the age of 2 and a girl no more than 4 – sang “God Bless America” for three young soldiers who were participating in the call from Kandahar.

One Army Reservist Tells It Like It Is

Yesterday we celebrated the 102nd Anniversary of the Army Reserves.  To honor that anniversary, sixty soldiers in the Army Reserve reenlisted at the fifth annual National Capitol Reenlistment Ceremony on Capitol Hill.  Visit the “My Army Reserve” for pictures and a special message from Lt. Gen. Jack Stultz, Chief Army Reserve and Commander Army Reserve Command.

But what exactly is life like for the men and women of the Army Reserves?  We asked one Reservist – Ronald Cameau – to shed some light on his experiences…

USO: Army Reserve – it’s probably a term that people hear a lot, but what does it actually mean as far as where and how you serve?
Ronald Cameau: A reservist is a Service Member who serves in a branch of the military in a part-time capacity (minimum one weekend a month, two full weeks a year) or in a time of war (which is when you become “Active Duty”). With regards to location for the Reservist, we are typically assigned to a unit that is within 50 miles from our home.

USO: Why did you join in the first place?
RC: I wanted to join the Army Reserve without having a full-time obligation to the military, to learn IT skills that would help me be successful.  Being a part of the military is a means to make my resume look good, and lastly, patriotism.

Army Reservists Ronald Cameau flies over Camp Bucca, Iraq in 2005.

USO: What’s the toughest part about integrating back into your non-military life?
RC: I have two perspectives of integrating back into civilian life. My 1st deployment was in 2005 and I was single with no child, so my integration back into my full-time “civilian” life was somewhat normal. I guess my only issue was reintegrating with friends and figuring out what the latest style of clothes were.

My second deployment in 2008 I was married and just had a baby. My integration back was somewhat difficult. When I left, my son was 10 months (not talking or walking… and I missed his first birthday). When I get home he’s talking and walking. I had to reintegrate myself into my family who has already had a setup routine without me around. My son also only called me by my first name. This is sometimes the normal way of life for Active Duty military, but it was hard for us.  My wife wasn’t used to being a “military spouse” because my Reserve status kept me living a “regular” life.  But when the deployment came around, it was hard.  Transitioning was difficult.

My normal Reservist schedule is serving one weekend per month, and two weeks during the summer.  Its a really simple schedule. My family is used to it and we plan around it.

USO: What’s the most rewarding experience you’ve had as an Army Reservist?
RC: Earning the skills and credentials that I can apply to the civilian world. I also really feel like I’m a productive citizen. The ability to serve my nation in response to the terror attacks of 9/11 (which I was directly affected by because I was in the Pentagon near a window on the side where the plane hit) also meant a lot to me.

USO: Any advice on those who are deciding between the Reserves and the “regular” Army?
RC: Active Duty = regular army. We are both Army…
If you if want to stay a civilian but serve your country I would do the Reserves. If you want travel the world and want to make a career out of the military as a full-time occupation, then do Active Duty.  There are pros and cons to both choices, but it really depends on the type of lifestyle you want for you and your family.

Ronald is the proud husband to USO communications specialist Patrice Cameau.  The opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of Ronald Cameau nd do not necessarily reflect those of the USO.