Safe From the Madness: USO of Illinois Gives Stranded Military Spouse a Place To Stay During Crazy Weekend

Siobhan Brennan-Sharer and her husband,

Siobhan Brennan-Sharer and her husband, Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Joshua Sharer. Photo courtesy Siobhan Brennan-Sharer

When Siobhan Brennan-Sharer visited her husband in Chicago for Valentine’s Day weekend this year, nothing seemed to go as planned.

From the delay of her initial flight to Chicago from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, to getting tangled in a 40-car pileup in freezing weather, Brennan-Sharer’s reunion with her husband — who she hadn’t seen in a month and half — was anything but magical.

“It was an all-around crummy weekend,” Brennan-Sharer wrote in an email. “Not how I wanted to spend the weekend with my husband.”

Improbably, things got even worse.

At the end of the weekend, Brennan-Sharer said her goodbyes and headed back to Chicago O’Hare International Airport for her flight home. When she arrived, Brennan-Sharer discovered her flight was cancelled and she wouldn’t be able to fly out until the next day.

Her husband, Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Joshua Sharer, was on duty and couldn’t come pick her up. She called her mother, a retired Marine, for advice on what to do next. Her mom said to find the USO.

Brennan-Sharer headed to the USO of Illinois O’Hare Center, where she was greeted by volunteers who told her she could spend the night at the 24-hour center while waiting her flight. One volunteer even spent time chatting with Brennan-Sharer when she noticed she was crying.

“After all that had happened that weekend, it was awesome to walk in, see friendly faces that helped me and made me feel safe,” Brennan-Sharer wrote.


“I was there for about 18 hours all together,” she wrote, “and it was great to be somewhere away from home and feel safe and not having to worry about how much extra this canceled flight was going to cost me.”

During her stay, Brennan-Sharer met a number of USO volunteers, including police officer Tim Walsh and his 7-year-old son, Rylan Walsh, who had skipped his Boy Scout pizza party to volunteer with his dad.

Brennan-Sharer — whose father is also a police officer — was particularly touched by the father-son duo, and gave Tim Walsh a challenge coin from her father’s sheriff’s department.

“[I] said he could keep it or give it to his little boy,” she wrote. “He [also] wanted to send me a patch and a challenge coin as [well], so I gave him my information and he just sent [the items] to me a few weeks ago.”

Even though her weekend didn’t go exactly as she had hoped — the airline even lost her luggage on her flight home — Brennan-Sharer still thinks fondly about her time at the USO of Illinois O’Hare Center.

“It was definitely a great place to just catch my breath from the crazy weekend,” she wrote.

A Major League Experience: Chicago Cubs Pitcher Edwin Jackson Hosts Military Families at Wrigley Field

Cubs’ Edwin Jackson with military families from the USO of Illinois. Photo courtesy of the Chicago Cubs.

Chicago Cubs pitcher Edwin Jackson — second row above the USO banner — sits with military families from the USO of Illinois. Photo courtesy of the Chicago Cubs.

Edwin Jackson knows what it’s like to be the new kid on the block. From growing up in a military family to playing in the big leagues, the Chicago Cubs pitcher is used to packing up and moving with very short notice.

So, to help military kids who also face frequent changes and moves, Jackson and the USO of Illinois hosted several military families at Wrigley Field as part of Edwin’s Entourage earlier this August.

“Any time you have a chance to give back to the community, especially with kids that comprehend a lifestyle you were brought up in, it’s special,” Jackson said. “It’s not like their parents giving them advice. They’re looking at someone closer to their age, and someone they can relate to a little bit more.”

Cubs pitchers Edwin Jackson and Wesley Wright signed autographs and posed for photos with the USO group. Photo courtesy of the Chicago Cubs

Cubs pitchers Edwin Jackson and Wesley Wright signed autographs and posed for photos with the USO group. Photo courtesy of the Chicago Cubs

The military families watched the Cubs batting practice Aug. 11 and met with Jackson, 30, as he spoke about his appreciation for the military and the importance of pursuing dreams.

“The messages are pretty firm and to the point, but it’s delivered in a fun way, a way in which they can understand how important it is to focus on their dreams and not give up,” Jackson said. “Anytime I have a chance to bring those kids out here and let them know that I went through the same lifestyle — the moving, the traveling, the picking up and bouncing around from city to city and being the new guy — it’s just a little bit of encouragement [and] a little bit of motivation to remind them they can still do whatever they want to do.”

Jackson also held a Q&A session with the families, a trivia contest with prizes, signed autographs and took photos with the participants before the game.

Joan Rivers, the San Diego Padres and a Soaked 5K: A Look at USO Events Around The Globe

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As the summer draws to a close, USO centers around the world were busy hosting events to lift the spirits of troops and their families. Here’s a look at a few of the fantastic moments from USO centers around the world:


Joan Rivers visits USO Denver. USO photo.

Joan Rivers Makes Surprise Visit to USO Denver
Long-time USO supporter Joan Rivers paid a surprise visit to USO Denver last Wednesday morning and made sure each guest, volunteer and staff member knew how much she appreciated them. Rivers was the 2001 USO of Metropolitan New York’s Woman of the Year.

“Thank you for your service,” Rivers told the group.

Military Kids Hit the Field at the Be a San Diego Padre for a Day Event
The USO partnered with Petco Park and the Padres to give military kids a Major League experience. Several local kids from military families spent the day practicing baseball fundamentals, talking with former Padre Damian Jackson and learning all about what it would be like to be a Major League Baseball player. Check out the video from the event here.

Sixth Annual Clark After Dark in Chicago
The USO of Illinois took to the streets Thursday night for its sixth annual Clark After Dark block party. Thanks to the support of Alderman Brendan Reilly of the 42nd Ward, Boss Bar and other USO partners, partygoers enjoyed live music, military vehicle displays and plenty of food. Despite the rainy weather, Chicagoans came out in full force to support their troops and show appreciation.

Heidi Murkoff smiles with an expectant military mother. USO photo.

Heidi Murkoff smiles with an expectant military mother. USO photo.

USO/What to Expect Special Delivery Baby Shower in Fort Drum, New York
On Friday, the USO and the What to Expect Foundation, founded by best-selling author Heidi Murkoff, delivered a special baby shower to expecting military spouses and service women stationed in Fort Drum, New York. The moms-to-be enjoyed an afternoon filled with shower games, food, a raffle and a question-and-answer session with Murkoff, who wrote the best-selling book “What to Expect When You’re Expecting.”

Second Annual H2GO in Okinawa, Japan
There aren’t many stickier places on the planet than the South Pacific in the summer, where near-100-degree temperatures are coupled with crippling humidity. To help troops and their families stationed in Okinawa beat the heat and stay in shape, volunteers at USO Kadena created H2GO, a 5K foot race with water-themed obstacles along the route.

The H2GO race let participants enjoy slip-n-slides, water cannons and the soaking power of over 20,000 water balloons.

Girls show off their nails and face paintings at Sun and Fun day with Kaiserslautern USO. USO photo.

Girls show off their nails and face paintings at Sun and Fun day with USO Kaiserslautern. USO photo.

Sixth Annual Sun and Fun Day in Kaiserslautern, Germany
As the dog days of summer come to an end, Kaiserslautern USO and TKS hosted the sixth annual Sun and Fun Day for troops and their families to help them enjoy the last of the warm weather. Despite some rain, over 2,300 visitors came out to enjoy the five-hour event that included food, raffles, live music and search-and-rescue dog demos.

Troops Get Their Game on at Camp Buehring Volleyball Tournament
Service members rallied their way to victory at a volleyball tournament Saturday night in Camp Buehring, Kuwait. Troops were able to form teams of six and compete for prizes — all while jamming out to the beats of DJ Break One. The winning teams were even awarded victory T-shirts!

News & Notes from Around the World

This week’s edition of News & Notes show how great collaborations can build a better USO for everybody…

USO Baghdad staffers Richard (left) and Ernie (right) shake hands with Iraqi Air Force Command Chief Master Sergeant Hassan Abid Kahdum, the senior NCO of the IqAF.

Baghdad, Iraq – It’s known as the Iraq Training & Advising Mission (ITAM) and it’s a key component to the drawdown plans for US Forces serving in Iraq. Here in Baghdad on Sather Air Base, members of the USAF work side by side with the Iraqi Air Force building up the personnel and fleet to enable the Iraqis to be self sustained. The ITAM-AF mission takes place on Al Multhana Air Base which sits right next to Sather Air Base and many of the US Airmen that work on Al Multhana are also dedicated USO volunteers.

TSgt William “Bill” Kusar USAF has spent the last year teaching his trade of airframe maintenance to his Iraqi counterparts and in that time has become a ambassador of the USAF and friend to many of the Iraqi including IqAF General Mohhamed Alaa Jasem. Bill, one of our USO volunteers, told us how many of the Iraqi Servicemen lack many simple items on Al Multhana including toilet paper. The Staffers of the USO Baghdad were able to recognize a wonderful opportunity to reach out and do some positive work with our Iraqi partners as toilet paper and hand lotion are two of the items we have in surplus here at the USO Baghdad.

On May 18th, USO Staffers Ernie Lacson & Richard McCarty accompanied Bill Kusar to Al Multhana Air Base to donate 9 boxes of toilet paper and 2 boxes of hand lotion to the General and his staff. General Jasem was very taken with the gesture of good will and expressed his gratitude, in true Arabic fashion, by inviting the USO Staff to a dinner in our honor. The USO Baghdad has served many nations at our center including Dutch, Turkish, Australians, British, Polish and even Fijians, but it was a great opportunity to help out the Iraqi as well when their success is so vital to our mission here.

USO staff, volunteers, and supporters turned out en masse for the Komen Race for the Cure in Rome, May 2010.

Rome, Italy – On an overcast gray Sunday morning, the USO Rome Center was thinking “pink.”  More specifically, staff, volunteers, friends and visitors of the USO Rome Center were gathering early on the morning of Sunday, May 16th to participate in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure.  The USO Rome Center had worked diligently over the past several weeks soliciting donations and signing up runners.  In total, their efforts raised over 240 euros.  But now came the more grueling part.  They were pinning on bib numbers and lacing up their sneakers in preparation to run the 5K through the streets of the historical center of Rome.

The Race for the Cure is the signature event of the Susan G. Komen Italia, a nonprofit, volunteer-driven organization, active in Italy since 2000 as the first international affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the world’s largest and most progressive grassroots network fighting to eradicate breast cancer forever. The Race is a 5K run to raise funds, to promote positive awareness, education and early detection of breast cancer as well as to celebrate breast cancer survivors who participate to the Race donning pink caps and t-shirts and share their experience in an open and positive way.

The USO Rome Center team joined over 40,000 participants in the Race for the Cure.  Weaving their way around the race course, they had little time to catch their breath as they passed the Colosseum and the ancient Forum.  Energetic and enthusiastic the whole way, they reached the finish line and celebrated with the thousands of others in the Race Village at Terme di Caracalla.  This truly “amazing race” is now an annual event in the Eternal City and the USO Rome Center is proud to be part of this great tradition and to support this global organization.

The USO Rome Center is located in the heart of the capital city of Italy.  Conveniently located near the Vatican, the center’s goal is to make Rome one of the most memorable and positive experiences of our patrons’ military service by offering a “Home while in Rome.”  The USO Rome Center offers a hotel reservation service, great tours, airport transportation and free area information. And while in Rome, visit the center to relax and meet their friendly, informative staff, who can answer all your questions and provide you with area info, maps and more to help you make the most of your experience.  For more information, visit the USO Rome Center website.  You can also find them on Facebook and Twitter.

COL Dan Scott, USA, addresses the military families at the Opening Ceremony.

Chicago, Illinois– On Saturday, May 15, the USO of Illinois honored Armed Forces Day by sponsoring a fun-filled day of recreation for Illinois military and military families at Chicago’s historic Navy Pier.  Over 400 guests were treated to USO Kid Kits filled with kid-friendly surprises, free carnival rides and attractions, complimentary lunch and a free IMAX movie theater screening.  The event began with a special Opening Ceremony featuring guest speaker, Colonel Dan Scott, Deputy Commanding Officer, 3rd Brigade, 75th Division Battle Command Training Division, Ft. Sheridan, Illinois, and USO of Illinois President and COO, Tony Enrietto.

Military and their families were warmly welcomed to USO’s Navy Pier center, where USO Volunteers made them feel at home and helped military kids select a free Disney DVD from a large assortment while all families enjoyed home-baked treats and refreshments before embarking on the many activities arranged especially for the day and meant to recognize and thank them for their service.

You can find out more about USO Illinois on Facebook and Twitter.

Block Leave – Midwestern Style!

The USO Illinois Center’s at Chicago-area airports will be open 24/7 through Monday, with thousands of Troops and their families passing through O’Hare and Midway over the weekend. Real the full story from!

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