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

“Me and a Friend”: It’s a Homerun for Military Kids

Kelsie Vick, second from left, poses with her friends Josh Braden, Mimi Nsanzimana, and Kyle Thornhill before the start of the Nationals-Mets baseball game at Nationals Stadium in Washington, D.C., July 4, 2010. Kelsie has relocated 10 times with her Army family. (USO photo)

Last Saturday we gave you an exclusive preview of the new program for military kids called “Me and a Friend.”  A collaboration between the Washington Nationals and USO of Metropolitan DC resulted in this unique program, which provided nearly 4,000 free tickets for Sunday’s home game at Nationals Park.  The program was created in consultation with the Department of Defense as a way to say thanks for the sacrifices made by military kids, and will continue throughout the remainder of the baseball season.

Teens, especially, find that heading out to a baseball game with friends can make a big difference in normalizing their experience as a member of a military family.  “A lot of times, teens just can’t find anything to do,” as Josh Braden explained to Lisa Daniel of American Forces Press Service.  “The focus is just on clubs and stuff. So this is a good thing to do to keep kids out of trouble.”  Braden attended the game with his friend Kelsie Vick, a recent graduate of Washington-Lee High School in Arlington, Va., who has relocated 10 times with her Army family.

Didn’t make it out to Sunday’s game?  No problem!  There’s still plenty of time to participate in “Me and a Friend” this summer.  To check ticket availability for the July 11 game against the Giants please use USO-Metro’s TicketLine program.  All tickets must be picked up at the USO office at 228 McNair Road, Bldg 405 Fort Myer, Va., 22211.  And check out more pics below!

Military Kids run the bases as the Rushmore Four cheer them on at the July 4, 2010 Washington Nationals home game against the New York Mets. (USO photo)

Two recipients of the "Me and a Friend" tickets took time out of watching the game to write a Major League thank you note to Washington Nationals players on July 4, 2010. (USO photo)

The Nationals Park billboard gave a special shout out to USO of Metropolitan Washington and all of the military kids, their friends, and their families in attendance at the game. (USO photo)

Washington Nationals and USO Kick Off ‘Me & a Friend’ Program for Kids

By Brian Price

Our nation’s “Patriot Six” culminates this July 4th weekend, but appreciation for our troops and their families will continue throughout the baseball season. The Washington Nationals, in conjunction with the USO of Metropolitan Washington, have started a new program that provides military kids free tickets to Sunday’s game when star pitcher, Stephen Strasburg, takes the mound. The Nationals will provide free tickets to thousands of young fans throughout the rest of the season.

Craig Stammen chats with USO Vice President Kevin Wensing (r).

USO Vice President Kevin Wensing is especially pleased that the Nationals have taken this initiative. “We hope this is just the beginning and that other pro teams take a page out of the Nationals’ book and get involved with military family and friends across the country,”

In anticipation of Sunday’s festivities, Nationals players and their manager, Jim Riggleman, offered their thoughts on the meaning of the holiday and the military families who will be coming out to the ballpark.

BP: What does the “Me & a Friend” Program mean to you?

Jim Riggleman: “I’m so proud of every soldier for defending us. I think what the troops do is the most important thing that anybody can do for his country. Playing baseball pales in comparison to what the troops do. We provide entertainment. However, I’m honored that we can be the first team to get ‘Me and a Friend’ started. For a young person to have a loved one in combat is an unimaginably difficult thing. If baseball can give them a few moments of comfort than that’s more satisfying than anything I can think of. I’m excited for them to come out to the ballpark.”

BP: What’s special about playing in our nation’s capital?

Ryan Zimmerman, 3B, #11: “Washington D.C. is a great patriotic city to live in and play baseball in, especially during July 4th weekend. We play within view of the capital building, which is a special thing. We’re always trying to do things to stay connected to the troops and to show our appreciation. I know the whole club is really excited to kick off the ‘Me and a Friend’ program. Everyday we’re thankful for what our troops do. We live in a great country.”

J.D. Martin, SP, #51: “One of my favorite moments each home game is when we welcome home troops [in the 3rd inning]. They get put up on the jumbo screen and they always receive a standing ovation. It’s great getting a chance to acknowledge them.”

BP: What does this holiday mean to you?

Craig Stammen, SP, #35: “The only reason I’m able to do what I do is because of the troops. For most Americans July 4th means fireworks and barbeques, but it’s like any other day for a soldier in that they’re still risking their lives for the independence that we civilians are celebrating. I appreciate all soldiers and can’t thank them enough.”

(L to R) Nyjer Morgan, Ryan Zimmerman, Josh Willingham, and Adam Dunn observe the National Anthem.

BP: Do you have any friends in the service?

Riggleman: “I just returned a letter to a veteran who was a ball boy for me when I was managing in the minors. He served in the U.S. Marines for 20 years. His first passion in life was serving this country. His second is baseball, so after having served he’s back and I’m trying to help find him a job in baseball.”

Stammen: “My college roommate enlisted in Officer Candidate School about two years ago. After, he spent a year in Afghanistan and now he’s at Fort Bragg in North Carolina. I try to speak with him as often as I can and keep him close to my heart.”

“The thing about him, and really any soldier, is that they’ll never let on to how tough it is in combat. We’ll play on a hot day and the first thing we do after the game is shower. He’s in combat, it’s 40 degrees hotter and he might not be able to shower for days at a time.”

Martin: “A good family friend, Mike Hill, was in Iraq and he was responding to a roadside bomb. He was helping to pick up a wounded soldier on a stretcher when a landmine went off. It killed several troops around him and he was seriously injured. I’m from a small town, so that’s something that everybody heard about. We were just glad he made it out alive.”

Jim Riggleman summed up perfectly: “Our troops provide safety for us and some of them don’t come back. As Americans, that’s something we need to always appreciate especially when we’re celebrating our independence. Freedom’s not free and they’re the ones paying the price.”

The Washington Nationals and the USO of Metropolitan Washington have teamed up to give military kids the opportunity to enjoy a baseball game with their friends through the “Me and a Friend” program, which formally kicks off on July 4 when the Nationals host the New York Mets in Washington, D.C at 1:35 p.m..

Tickets for the July 4th game are available on a first come first serve basis through USO-Metro’s TicketLine program and must be picked up at the USO office at 228 McNair Road Bldg 405 Fort Myer, VA 22211.  Military families can also visit http://www.usometro.org/tickets to check on availability.

Peter King and Paula Deen Have a Ball with Wounded Warriors

Sports Illustrated's Peter King (L) poses with Paula Dean (C) of the Food Channel and a friend at the May 19 National's Game. (USO Photo by Kevin Wensing)

The Washington Nationals pulled out a victory over the New York Mets last night, but the real winners of the evening were the Wounded Warriors in attendance.  Having triumphed over many challenges, the group was able to kick back and relax, with special company from Sports Illustrated’s Peter King and The Food Network’s Paula Deen!

Deputy Secretary of Defense Bill Lynn with SGT Rafael Delgado - a combat medic who was awarded an Army Commendation Medal with valor device and a Combat Field Medical Badge - at the Washington National's game on May 19, 2010. (USO Photo by Kevin Wensing)

Deputy Secretary of Defense Bill Lynch also stopped by.  We’re proud of these wounded warriors and hope they enjoyed a beautiful evening at Nationals Park.  Oh, and the Nats won, too.  Check out a short video below…

Troops Use Sports to Keep Moral High

One of the popular requests for the USO2Go program is the athletic kit, which features recreational activity equipment including a putting green and portable putting set, volley ball and badminton set, horseshoes, frisbees, footballs, flag football belts, nerf balls, soccer balls and a magnetic dart board.  Individual USO Centers often augment those offerings with sports equipment of their own.  And sometimes they get really creative!

Camp Buehring, for example, recently had NASCAR-themed event inspired by the recent race at Bristol Motor Speedway.  Right before the race began, troops signed up on the “Caution Lap Pool” to guess when the first five cautions would occur. Winners won prizes if they guessed correctly.

They also held their own race, right inside the USO! Troops competed against each other by racing remote-controlled cars throughout the cafe on a 550 cord race track.  How cool is that? As one duty manager said, “Troops and staff had a blast at this event!”

USO Race

It's not as easy as it looks! Just because they're lacking a full-size track doesn't mean Troops have any less of a good time racing remote-controlled cars through the cafe at USO Camp Buehring.

Over at the USO at Ali Al Salem, it was the Great American Pastime that brought together Troops.  Staff and volunteers there hosted a day of festivities last week to say goodbye to the old command cell and welcome the new command cell.  The events kicked off with a good old game of softball, with the old command cell winning the game 22 to 17.  “Take me out to the ballgame” now has a whole new meaning!

Baseball USO

A serviceman knocks it out of the proverbial park, as the old and new command hit the diamond at USO Ali Al Salem. (USO Photo by Duane DeVorak)

USO Basebal

Teammates cheer a running back to home base, as the old command cell defeated the new in a game of softball. (USO Photo by Duane DeVorak)

Finally, it’s not our story, but we think it’s a good one anyway.  A group of Canadian and American hockey players from the NHL recently travelled to Afghanistan for a game of street hockey.  And they brought along the Stanley Cup!

This friendly rivals have been playing a series of exhibition games organized by the Canadian government.  Players past and present played alongside Troops in Kandahar, among other locations.  This is the fourth time the Stanley Cup has visited the Persian Gulf.  Keep updated with posts on the Toronto Maple Leafs’ website and take a moment to listen to a report from NPR.

With Team Canada's Lt. Cmdr. Lorne Hartwell (Royal Canadian Navy) close on his heels, Sgt. Francisco N. Aponte of the Kandahar Hawks (a maintenance noncommissioned officer with the 143d Expeditionary Sustainment Command) chases after the ball in a ball-hockey game against Team Canada March 4. Team Canada, comprised mostly of former National Hockey League players, visited Kandahar Air Field, Afghanistan, on a morale trip for troops. (Army photo by PFC Elisebet Freeburg)

Have a Military ID? The Kannapolis Intimidators Want You to be Their Guest!

You might know the Kannapolis Intimidators as the single A affiliate in the Chicago White Sox minor league chain.  But they’re more than.  They’re great supporters of the military, and – in partnership with the United States Marines – are offering two free tickets to ANY home game this season for “anyone that shows any form of Military ID, active, retired or a family member ID at the Intimidators Will Call Window.”  Awesome!

The inspiration came from last year’s Military Appreciation night – where the USO of North Carolina set up a booth – and the belief that there was more to be done for the Troops and their families.  The USO of North Carolina continues to be a community partner.

“We are aware of the sacrifices being made, not just by our military personnel, but also their families,” Intimidators General Manager Randy Long said. “We want to provide our military personnel, spouses, family and friends an enjoyable evening by providing free tickets to all of our games. We are honored to have these brave individuals and their families at Fieldcrest Cannon Stadium, and thanks to the support of the United States Marines, we can do so for free all season long.”
We are thrilled to announce this offer and hope that other teams around the country will follow the Intimidators’ lead.
There’s nothing else to say but grab your family, friends, and your baseball mitt and head out to an enjoyable night of free baseball!