News & Notes from Around the World

USO Centers from Italy to Oahu have been busy!  Check out our news and notes from allover…

As you know, USO Hawaii was recently honored at the State Capitol of Honolulu with a State Senate Proclamation.  Over 100 individuals were in attendance, including a majority from both Senate and Lower House, USO Hawaii corporate and community supporters, volunteers and USO Hawaii Advisory Council members.

USO Hawaii will also be hosting its inaugural USO Gala Tribute on April 16th!  Honolulu’s historic Washington Place, the former residence of a dozen of Hawai’i governors and the last Hawaiian monarch, Queen Lili’uokalani, will be hosting.  Proceeds will be used to support program and morale services for our military and their families.  Expected to attend are command, flag officers, and enlisted military personnel from various service branches on the islands. Governor Lingle will deliver a congratulatory message at the Gala Tribute, with LTG Benjamin Mixon as Keynote Speaker.  Tickets are still available; call the center for more details!

(L-R) CMDCM Earl Gray, MSN Ryan Thompson, MA2 Jeffrey Clark, Chief Randy Basat, MA1 Michael Britton, MA1 Larry Hardison, CS1 Dusty Barnes, and Base Commander-Joint Basing, Captain Richard Kitchens at the Senate Legislative Recognition event at the Hawaii State Capitol. The event honored USO Hawaii for their outstanding contribution to the morale and programs services that benefit our U.S. Armed Forces in Hawaii.

There’s a new T-wall at Camp Virginia, Kuwait.  The staff wanted to honor and encourage the volunteers, so volunteers were asked to create and pain their own wall.  Thank you to all of our volunteers for your hard work, dedication, assistance, friendship and love – you did an awesome job with the T-wall!

These are just some of the volunteers at USO Camp Virginia who made this T-wall possible.

USO Vicenza recently celebrated their grand reopening with food, refreshments, and a cake cutting. AFN was present to cover the event (see the video below) as was the USAG Vicenza Outlook newspaper.

Manager Glenn Gibbs welcomed everyone to “their” Center.  The literal reopening of the doors, symbolized the reopening of a Center that belongs to the community.  We’re so proud of USO Vicenza’s continued commitment to serving their neighbors and our troops!

USO staff Torie Gotaas and Glenn Gibbs (center) pose in front of the cake with staff and volunteers.

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USO’s Wearing O’ the Green

St. Patrick’s Day is just for the Irish? Not at USO Centers around the world, where Troops, staff, and volunteers celebrated their Irish heritage (real or imagined!) with refreshments, entertainment, and a jig or two. Check out some pictures from this week’s celebrations…

On March 16th, 2010, the USO Warrior Center hosted a Pre-St. Patty's Day celebration. The wounded warriors enjoyed a wonderful performance by the Tir na nOg Dancers. The dancer's ages ranged from 7-17 years old. During the delicious home cooked Irish dinner the wounded warriors were entertained by an Irish band from Dublin, Ireland named, Bog O' the Lough. This was a great night and the 100 wounded warriors in attendance had a great time. Several wounded warriors stated they had a great time letting loose and celebrating Irish style!

USO and MRW at Camp Virginia co-hosted our annual St. Patrick’s Day party on . . . St. Patrick’s Day (17 March)! The Dusty Room was beautifully decorated for the occasion in numerous shades of green. Partygoers played Toss the Gold Coin, Pin the Shamrock on the Leprechaun, and Musical Chairs. We held a raffle and provided chips, dips, green O’Doul’s, and a beautiful and delicious cake. Everyone in attendance had a brilliantly good time.

The CASF USO staff hosted a St Patty's day dinner for approximately 50 members of the CASF staff on March 17, 2010. The staff joined in by cooking fresh reuben sandwiches and making rootbeer floats We offered goodies such as Irish stew, shepherds pie and dessert right here in the USO. We played pin the leaf on the shamrock for a $50 USO tour voucher. The deployed staff here do not have a kitchen in their rooms or family here with them. We try to make sure they know they are appreciated and well fed. If we can help them to feel at home for even a moment we have done our job well.

Camp Virginia Gets Creative

We love getting dispatches from the field, especially from our USO Centers that support Troops who are far, far from home.  Like Camp Virginia, in Kuwait – this USO Center never fails to amaze with their innovative programs, events, and activities.  We take a moment to share a few of our favorites from this month…

CakeCamp Virginia held a Black History Month/United Through Reading celebration with a beautiful cake and inspiring speech by SFC Areka Brown of the 90th HRC.

SFC Brown spoke movingly about the important contributions of African Americans throughout the history of the United States and the U.S. military.  Afterward, she cut the amazing cake (seen at right with SFC Brown), which was enjoyed by the permanent parties and transient troops in attendance.

Sock PuppetsNothing says fun in the desert like…sock puppets?  But how cool is this: on 8 February, USO at Camp Virginia held their first “Sock Puppets for the Sick” arts and craft event.   And all of the puppets were donated to a children’s hospital!

The USO supplied buttons, felt, ribbon and markers for the over 35 creative puppets.  As Duty Manager Bonnie Bachenheimer wrote us, “Socks ‘n stuff + inventive and caring troops = smiling young patients.”

Finally – and just when you thought they couldn’t top the cake and puppets – USO at Camp Virginia hosted a concert featuring Celtic Aire, a musical group composed of the U.S. Air Force Singing Sergeants.  Members of Celtic Aire are Technical Sgts. Joseph Haughton, Julia Brundage, and Emily Lewis, and Master Sgt. Eric Sullivan, all seen below.

Celtic AireAs Bachenheimer explains, “We were initially somewhat bewildered because we never previously had this type of group entertain at the USO.  However, it took less than one song for Celtic Aire to win over just about everyone inside the Center. The group played Irish folk songs and dance music, American Blue Grass and country, drinking tunes and bar ditties.  Between the jigs and sing-alongs, the jokes and stories, their show seemed much shorter than the 75 minutes they played.”  Awesome!

Thanks to the staff and volunteers at USO Camp Virginia for sharing these amazing stories with us.  And if your loved one has spent any time at the USO Center there, let us know!  We love to hear YOUR stories, too.

Eyes Light Up

This poem was written by the staff at Camp Virginia, Kuwait, to capture in one simple phrase – Eyes Light Up or “ELU” – their every day experiences at the USO Center there.  We hope you enjoy…

We love it at the USO.  We get to see that our services are offering soldiers a bit of unexpected good luck; a touch of serendipity.  It may be something small or simple, but we know we’ve done something right when we watch their eyes light up.

Soldier:  How long is the wait for the phone?
Us:  You can get on one right now.
Soldier:  I don’t have a calling card.
Us:  You don’t need a calling card; just hop on.
Soldier:  I’ve used all of my Spaware minutes.
Us:  You don’t need Spaware minutes.  Our phones are direct dial.
Soldier:  Do you mean I can sit down and call my husband right now?
Us:  Yes, ma’am. Soldier’s ELU.

Solider:  I heard you’re open until 18:00.
Us:  No sir.  We are open until zero-six, not six o’clock.
Soldier’s ELU.

Us:  Yes, sir.  The book goes home along with your recording.  Soldier’s ELU.
Soldier:  So I just take this and mail it?
Us:  No, sir.  We will mail it for you.  Soldier’s ELU.
Soldier:  So how much does it cost?
Us:  It’s free, sir.  Everything in our USO is free.  Soldier’s ELU.

Soldier:  The movie is over.  How do I find out what’s playing next in the cinema?
Us:  You are welcome to pick the next movie.  Just give us the name and number from our list.
Soldier’s ELU.

Soldier:  What time do I have to be here to do a UTR?
Us:  Any time we are open.
Soldier:  Is there a long wait? Us:  No, sir.  You are welcome to do a UTR rig

ht now.
Soldier’s ELU.

Us:  Ma’am, here’s your “cocktail.”  It’s Happy Hour at the USO.
Soldier’s ELU.

Soldier:  Are we allowed to bring food in here?
Us:  Sure.
Soldier’s ELU.

Soldier:  Do you have a deck of cards I can borrow?
Us:  [Pointing to six decks of cards on the desk.]  Take and keep as many as you want.
Soldier’s ELU.

Soldier:  How long is the wait for the Internet.
Us:  You can hop on right now. Soldier’s ELU.

Of course there as many occasions for the Camp Virginia Duty Managers’ eyes to light up:

When four troops return their Wii game and they are all laughing and dripping with sweat, our ELU.

When we find someone snoring on the couch for 90 minutes, our ELU.

When the Colonel sends UTRs home to his children or comes in to play Xbox with the Major, our ELU.

When the movie is over and 40 people exit the cinema, just like a theater in the States, our ELU.

When the Center is full and quiet with people reading, watching TV, playing board games, chatting and relaxing, our ELU.

When the CSM tells us that she has suggested to all new arrivals at Camp Virginia that they visit the USO because they will be in for a treat, our ELU.

When the Center is full and loud with people playing video games, dominoes, watching action movies and whooping, our ELU.

When everyone is watching football games on AFN and the crowd roars with enthusiasm or groans in despair, our ELU.

When a soldier finds a friend who he hasn’t seen in months, our ELU.

Any time troops laugh, our ELU.

We’re at the USO and we have the best “jobs” in the world; our goal is to make people happy.  Every day, at least a few times a day, our ELU!  Life just doesn’t get better than that.”