Airmen March from Base to Base for USO

USO Delaware's Center Director Joan Cote (r) hits the 17-mile marker with walkers during the 3rd Annual Base to Base March on May 21, 2010.

The 3rd annual Base 2 Base March commenced on May 21, with  four dozen participants undertaking a 22-hour,  47-mile ruck march from the Delaware Air National Guard headquarters in New Castle to the Dover Air Force Base.  And the money raised – over $1000 this year alone – goes to the USO!

“I would love for deployed servicemembers to see we are thinking of them every day,” Tech. Sgt. David Jackson told Master Sgt. Jake Chappelle of 512th AW Public Affairs. “We may be bruised and blistered today, but they do this all the time. This (Base 2 Base March) is just a way of showing our appreciation for what they do.”

“The USO Delaware is thrilled that Sergeant Jackson has honored us with his Base 2 Base March,” said Joan Cote, USO Delaware director. “It brings awareness about the USO and also provides funding to support his military peers. It’s pretty remarkable that this Air Force member takes time away from his family life after a hectic work schedule to coordinate and complete this incredible event year after year. I don’t think many people realize what a difficult task the march is. That’s pretty impressive.”

This event would not have been possible without the dedicated walkers, volunteers, and other folks who made it possible.  It was tough going at times, but those who completed the walk all crossed the finish line together, showing that teamwork and support make anything possible.  Way to go!

“Socks for Soldiers” Campaign at St. John University

There are lots of ways to support the troops, from volunteering at your local USO Center to donating basics items like toothbrushes, books, or soap.  One item we often get requests for is socks.  And – as frequent guest blogger Brian Price found out – a seemingly simple everyday item can make a big difference…

PR Students Collect 608 pairs and $1300 for Our Troops
By Brian Price

As the academic school year winds down for students across the country, St. John’s University students are recognizing the thousands of young Americans in the military, posted in combat zones and disaster areas. In appreciation, a St. Johns Public Relations Campaigns Seminar class created a semester-long campaign to collect socks and raise money to buy them.

It began with research, which revealed that our troops frequently run out of clean, dry socks. Some units are deployed where there is no running water, so they can’t even wash them. The students found this quite remarkable. “I can’t believe something we all take for granted is so critical to the comfort of the men and women who make so many sacrifices for us, “ commented Tanya Dainoski, a senior in the class. The students collected socks and donations by holding bake sales and selling refreshments at athletic events. “It was fun and people responded because it is such a good cause,” added Keeley Mangeno, another class member. One of the most successful fundraisers was a pie-throw organized by Jayson Castillo and his fraternity brothers. “We got a lot of cooperation from the faculty, who were willing to suffer the embarrassment of a face full of shaving cream because they knew the money would go to socks for the troops.” Their own professor, Jane Paley, was one of them. “It was fun, though custard would have tasted better!”

The fundraising events culminated in a “Dance Through the Decades” benefit featuring hit music from the fifties to the present. “Something for everyone to dance to,” commented Ashlea Irick, who spent most of the evening on the dance floor.

The University Commons, or UC as it is known on campus, was decorated with American flags and colorful balloons. An extravagant buffet was underwritten, so the students wouldn’t have to spend any of the proceeds. Josh Peters was especially adamant: “We wanted every cent we raised to go to our troops, not to the party.”

The dance attracted classmates, friends and faculty.

Vance Toure is a senior and PR major: “Socks are one of the overlooked necessities for the troops. Tonight’s fundraiser brings the community together in the name of a great cause.”

Clearly the plan worked; big boxes at the entrance to the dance were overflowing with sweat socks.

When 50 students lined up to do the electric slide at the urging of DJ Zeke, who volunteered to spin tunes at the dance, Prof. Mark Prendergast, a Vietnam veteran and former Army Sergeant watched from the sidelines. “St. John’s University is an institution built around the notion service; it’s energizing to see students come out and support the troops regardless of their feelings on the war.”

Dr. John DiMarco, Director of the Undergraduate Public Relations program added: “The lessons of the curriculum educate the students while simultaneously giving back to society.”

The students agree, including Maria Kirsch, a senior and P.R. major: “This class was a great opportunity to give back. I have several family members in active service, so this is event is meaningful on multiple levels.” Amanda Wilkinson, another student in the class, got support for the initiative from both her father and grandfather, both of whom served in the military.

The best part was the fun the students were having celebrating our troops. Student Sydney Cohn stopped dancing just long enough to sum it up:

“A Friday night dance gave students a chance to socialize with the greater result: hundreds of pairs of socks will be donated to the troops.”

If you’d like to find ways for your school or college group to fundraise or have a donation drive for items like socks, please contact your local USO or send us an email. Brian Price is a writer for SNY, the online home for all things NY sports. The opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of Brian Price and do not necessarily reflect those of the USO.

Sports Illustrated’s Peter King Supports the Troops with the “Five for Fighting” Campaign

SI Columnist Peter King

A chance conversation five years ago with the guy seated next to him at a St. Louis Cardinals baseball game led Peter King – a popular columnist with Sports Illustrated – down an unexpected path.  He developed a friendship with Army First Sgt. Mike McGuire, who – as King explained in his column last week – “specializes in ridding the landscape of IEDs (improvised explosive devices) on the roads of Iraq and Afghanistan, so others in the military can do their job safely.”

The two men stayed in touch and King recently learned that Sgt. McGuire and the men of Havoc Company, 40th Engineers, will be deployed to Afghanistan later this year.  “I asked Mike just before the holidays if there was anything I could do for him and his troops. At first he said, ‘We’re fine.’ Then he said it would nice if the base that will likely be invented for his company — as are many in remote areas of Afghanistan — could have some or the comforts that the big bases have: a TV with video games, and weight equipment for the soldiers in the company to use in their downtime.”  With that in mind, King knew just what to do: partner with the USO and John Ondrasik for the “Five for Fighting” initiative, which asks for a donation to get Sgt. McGuire, his company, and other Troops the amenities of the USO2Go program.

USO2GO takes some of most popular offerings of a stand-along USO Center – snacks, coffee, toiletries, phone cards, DVDs, XBox®360, PlayStation® 3, Wii, laptops, musical instruments, art supplies, and footballs just to name a few – and packages them in customized, deployable kits that can be delivered to Forward Operating Bases.  These kits can make all the difference for Troops stationed in isolated, remote locations.

King’s ask went out on February 28th and within just twenty-four hours, YOUR donations resulted in enough for three USO2GO kits!  King put it best when he said, “I’m in awe of your generosity. As is the USO.”

USO2GO being delivered to FOB Brassfield-Mora. Samarra, Iraq. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Ian Terry)

It’s true.  We are humbled by these donations and grateful to King for bringing attention to such a great program.  King promises to continue to update his readership on Sgt. McGuire and his men, and had this quote to share in yesterday’s column: “I don’t even know what to say,” [McGuire] wrote from Germany, where his 135-troop Havoc Company, 40th Engineers, is training for deployment in Afghanistan later this year. “I am speechless, really. We are just soldiers. Never expected anything like this. Please tell everyone, ‘Thank you.’ I wish I could describe the emotions better. This just proves that the American people have not forgotten about the soldier. WOW!!!”

To date, you’ve helped us raise over $125,000, but we’re just getting started.  Your donation means so much to our Troops!

We’ll continue to keep you posted on the latest from Sgt. McGuire and his company.  In the meantime, take a moment to leave a message for them and read what others have posted.  And follow @the_USO and @SI_PeterKing on Twitter for all the latest info.

Thank you.

Celtics Fans: Donate YOUR Tickets to the Troops!

Boston Celtics Fans Give Troops Slam Dunk Treatment in Third Annual Seats for Soldiers

The Boston Celtics will again treat troops and their families to a slam dunk event on Friday, March 12 against the Indiana Pacers as part of the third annual Seats for Soldiers program, presented by OmniPresence. Through Seats for Soldiers, Celtics fans donate their tickets to the game and allow members of the U.S. armed forces and their families to attend in their seat.

Last season, more than 500 tickets were donated to Seats for Soldiers and this year the program is expanding so fans anywhere can donate tickets for the U.S. armed forces. Fans interested in donating tickets can call 617-854-8013 or email seatsforsoldiers@celtics.com.  Additionally, Boston Celtics season ticket holders will be able to donate their tickets by logging onto their account at www.celtics.com. All donated tickets are given to the USO for distribution among the military branches.

“Seats for Soldiers has been a tremendously successful program in honoring the men and women of all our armed forces,” Boston Celtics Team President Rich Gotham said. “Our fans have shown amazing generosity the last few years in donating their tickets to these courageous individuals who defend our country. We look forward to working with our partner, OmniPresence, to provide the soldiers in attendance with a fun and special night.”

“The Seats for Soldiers program is an excellent opportunity for us to continue the USO tradition of providing first-class entertainment to our troops and their families,” said Jean Mallon, Executive Director, USO New England.  “The Boston Celtic fans are among the most patriotic, and I am proud of how they demonstrate their support for our troops.  Go Celtics!”

The Seats for Soldiers donations are product of a unique collaborative effort among the USO, Boston Celtics, Celtics season ticket holders and fans that purchased tickets for the March 12 home game. All of the seats donated were voluntarily contributed to allow members of the armed services and their families to attend the game in their place.  Thank you!

Donut Donation Makes a Big Difference

One person really can make a difference as the sailors at Yokosuka Naval Base in Japan found out on Friday, January 15, 2010.  Brooklynite Carmen Colon wanted to do something for the troops, so she purchased $240 worth of donuts to donate.  But how to get them there?  The USO, of course!

“USO Operation Doughnut Drop” with the USS Shiloh was a huge success.  “It really was a terrific morale-booster,” said Vernichel Tharps, the Director of Programs and Marketing for USO Japan.  Below are some exclusive pictures from this fun, sugar-filled day.  In the immortal words of Homer Simpson: “Donuts. Is there anything they can’t do?”

Happy New Year from the USO

As 2009 is rushed to a close, we hope you’ll take a few moments to make a tax-deductible gift to support our men and women in uniform. They make countless sacrifices on our behalf every day. And today, we can let them know they are on our minds and in our hearts.

Act before midnight tonight. Make a tax-deductible donation of $25 or more to support our Troops.


America’s service men and women have done so much throughout 2009 to serve our country. And we will be asking a great deal of them in the year ahead.   Before the clock strikes midnight, let those involved in dangerous duty far from home know that they are not forgotten.  Thank you for reaching out to our troops, to ease their burdens and lift their spirits.  Until Every One Comes Home.