What Our Troops Asked For

When you really need to get something done, you turn to the people you can count on. Time after time, you’ve been there when we’ve asked you to invest in critical projects supporting our troops. That’s why I’m turning to you now.

Here’s the situation: Our new USO Warrior and Family Center at Ft. Belvoir is now operational. That’s crucial because the road to recovery for our wounded troops can be physically and mentally challenging.

And part of the help we can provide is the opportunity now and then to visit a home away from home during their recovery where they can relax and relieve some stress. Can we count on you to help with some critical USO projects at the USO Warrior and Family Center including furnishing and supplying our new state-of-the-art Game Room?

Please, make your donation of $10 or more to help supply and furnish the new Game Room at the brand-new USO Warrior and Family Center at Ft. Belvoir.

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The Game Room in our new USO Warrior and Family Center at Ft. Belvoir is going to be something special — a state-of-the-art gamer’s dream. The latest and greatest video games — and all the technology to enjoy them to the fullest.

We’re installing eight 32-inch displays, video gaming chairs with built-in speakers and controls. With all of the technology provided our wounded troops and their families are guaranteed to not only have fun, but to also be helped along their path to their recovery through the therapeutic effects of positive stress relief.

And it’s impossible to think of a group of people more deserving of a chance to enjoy themselves and the comforts of home at our newest center.

Can we count you in on this special project? Click here to donate directly to the supplying and furnishing of the new Game Room at Fort Belvoir.

You’ve always been there for our troops. I hope you will step forward and support them once again with the care and commitment you’ve always shown. - Kelli Seely, Senior Vice President, Chief Development Office, USO

In-Kind Donors Provide Huge Benefit to USO Warrior and Family Center at Fort Belvoir

 

Building a house from scratch has a lot of hidden costs. Building a 20,000-square-foot home away from home for wounded, ill and injured troops and their caregivers takes a lot more than a weekend trip to Lowe’s.

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The golf simulator – donated by Full Swing Golf – has been one of the most popular attractions during previews of the USO Warrior and Family Center at Fort Belvoir, Va. USO Photo by Eric Brandner

The USO Warrior and Family Center – which held its grand opening Tuesday – cost more than $12 million to build. However, it would have been infinitely harder and costlier to assemble without in-kind donations from multiple companies, organizations and individuals.

“It’s so unique that we have varied donors,” USO of Metropolitan Washington Chief Operating Officer Cheryl Laaker Hall said. “For these companies to give us things that our their signature items, it means a lot for our organization.”

The following companies, listed alphabetically, made significant in-kind donations to the USO Warrior and Family Center at Fort Belvoir, Va.:

  • Activision: 16 video game titles
  • AMTICO International Inc.: 3,015 square feet of Urban Metal bronze vinyl tile
  • Bed Bath and Beyond, Inc.: Hundreds of items including appliances (toasters, vacuums, etc.) to kitchen cookware, utensils, place settings and towels
  • CISCO Systems, Inc.: Computer hardware, software and services totaling more than $110,000
  • Curt Kolcun: Microsoft Xbox consoles
  • Dow Chemical: 6,000 square feet of vegetative roofing insulation
  • EA Sports: 25 video game titles
  • Gull Swing Golf: A golf simulator valued at $50,000
  • Lafarge North America: Gypsum drywall
  • Microsoft: IT Academy software for technology education
  • Omnifics: Furniture storage
  • Petersen Aluminum Corporation: Metal roof panels
  • Robert Bost Associates: One lot of acoustic material for second floor areas including the music room
  • Roppe Flooring Products: Rubber stair treads, tile and nosings
  • Traveling Guitar Foundation: Guitars
  • The Valspar Corporation: 520 gallons of paint
  • Verizon Federal Inc.: Internal wiring and installation
  • Whirlpool Corporation: Maytag appliances for the kitchen (cooktop, dishwasher, refrigerators, etc.) and a washer and dryer

–Story by Eric Brandner, USO Director of Story Development

A New Center For Our Warriors

The Sports Lounge in the USO Warrior and Family Center at Fort Belvoir is almost ready for our wounded troops and their caregivers and families to enjoy.

The Sports Lounge in the USO Warrior and Family Center at Fort Belvoir is almost ready for our wounded troops and their caregivers and families to enjoy.

More than 40,000 troops have been visibly wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan, and more than 300,000 troops suffer from invisible wounds, like post-traumatic stress or traumatic brain injury. In addition, the Pentagon said the military reached a record high of 349 suicides in 2012, highlighting the need for increased mental and emotional care for America’s returning troops. While these numbers are upsetting, we have to face the fact that returning troops need us now more than ever. It is a particularly important time for recovering troops to have a stress-free and supportive environment as they heal and reintegrate into civilian life.

Since 1941, the USO has been there for our troops. As we continue to adapt to meet the needs of our military and their loved ones, we are thrilled to open the doors to a new center – designed especially for our recovering troops, their families and caregivers – in just a few days.

Located steps away from the Fort Belvoir Community Hospital, the USO Warrior and Family Center at Fort Belvoir, Va., will offer activities for recovering troops, their families and caregivers that will help them relax, have fun and reintegrate into society. Specifically, the programs and classes offered will align with the USO’s Continuum of Care. The center will have programmatic offerings in the areas of physical health and recreation, family strengthening, behavioral health, employment, education and community reintegration. Inside the center, guests will have access to more than 20 areas, including a movie theater, respite suite, sports lounge, business center, music room and a healing garden outdoors.

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The Game Room will be a place for recovering troops to relax and enjoy the latest games with state-of-the-art video game consoles and screens.


During the difficult journey toward recovery, this center will be a place for support, relaxation, a peaceful environment for families to come together and an opportunity to prepare for a fulfilling and happy life ahead. Men and women dealing with the aftermath of deployment can learn how to transition into a new and different role, find hope and embrace the change. Like all USO centers, the mission remains the same – to lift the spirits of America’s troops and their families.

A second USO Warrior and Family Center is currently being constructed at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., and is scheduled for completion in early 2014. The Warrior and Family Centers at Fort Belvoir and in Bethesda are possible because of the USO’s Operation Enduring Care campaign and our generous volunteers. We could not do this without you! – Sarah Camille Hipp, Communications Specialist

Support a New Center For Our Wounded

In 6 days, we open the doors on the new USO Warrior and Family Center at Fort Belvoir, Virginia – the first of its kind.

But this is more than just a new USO center. This is a symbol of America’s commitment to our wounded troops and their families. It’s an opportunity for all of us to let our troops know we’re right there with them.

The most effective and efficient way you can do that is by becoming a USO Proud Patriot. Your monthly pledge will be a clear sign to our troops that you’ll be there for them every day.

Become a USO Proud Patriot with a monthly pledge of $10, $15 or more and we’ll send you an exclusive USO tote bag.Screen Shot 2013-01-29 at 2.06.33 PM

As a USO Proud Patriot, you’ll be playing a pivotal role in delivering support to our troops.

This special group of supporters gives us the resources to do more for our troops — more free calls home, more care packages to the frontlines, and more care for our wounded, ill and injured troops at the new USO Warrior and Family Center.

And once you make the decision to become a USO Proud Patriot, we’ll immediately send you an exclusive USO tote bag to show our appreciation.

Take a strong stand for our troops. Make a monthly pledge of $10, $15 or more.

This new center is an important step for us here at the USO. It’s a chance for us to renew our commitment to our wounded troops and their families, and to show them we’ll be by their side every day. I hope you join us in sharing this excitement by becoming a USO Proud Patriot today.

Thanks for all you do,

Sloan Gibson
USO President and CEO

Filling Their Needs: A Look Back at How the USO Warrior and Family Center at Fort Belvoir was Conceived

At the end of every journey, it’s always interesting to look back and see how you got there.

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The USO Warrior and Family Center at Fort Belvoir, Va., will officially open Feb. 5. USO photo by Eric Brandner

The USO ends a very small part of its Warrior and Family Care journey on Feb. 5, when it officially opens its first Warrior and Family Center. The Fort Belvoir, Va.-based center – the largest center the USO has ever constructed – will be a home away from home for wounded, ill and injured troops during their recoveries.

In most ways, the ribbon cutting will be a day of firsts. But there was a lot of analysis before the first shovel was stuck in the ground.

The USO and STUDIOS Architecture conducted extensive research in 2010 to develop a strategy for not just what the building would look like, but also what services it would offer. Here are three of those findings – and their resulting implementations. 

  • The 2010 Tell USO Survey asked wounded, ill and injured troops to rank a list of needs according to their level of importance. The item receiving the largest percentage of “very important” responses was access to “online college and professional development classes.” The USO responded by working with STUDIOS to design the Learning Center, a four-room setup inside the Warrior and Family Center that brings the connectivity and resources of a university library to their campus. Free computer and Internet access in the Classroom – along with an interactive white board and space for guest lecturers – should make taking a variety of online and in-person classes easy. The Study and Learning Center Office offer private spaces for interviews, career counseling or more intimate learning experiences. Meanwhile, the Learning Center Lounge provides open space for group activities.
  • Hundreds of thousands of troops who deployed to the Mideast since 2001 have returned suffering from varying degrees of post-traumatic stress. This can lead to anxiety issues, especially in crowded, public spaces. The architects at STUDIOS identified this as a potential problem early in the design process and addressed it by making large, open, multipurpose spaces. The Warrior and Family Center will be flooded with natural light through several windows, adding to the open feel. In correlation, the structure emphasizes natural elements like an exposed wood ceiling and a stone fireplace. The natural light and design features are the antithesis of the top two things Tell USO survey respondents didn’t want to see in the centers: artificial plants and florescent lights.
  • At the time of our initial research, four out of five wounded, ill and injured troops lived on or near the installation where they’re receiving treatment. However, at least two in five of those troops didn’t have easily accessible kitchens. Well, no one’s going to go hungry at the Warrior and Family Center. The sizable kitchen features around-the-clock access to snacks and beverages, along with a stout offering of staples and appliances to cook with. The handicap-accessible space will also host cooking classes for recovering troops and their caregivers who are looking not only for new dinner ideas, but also for tips on navigating the kitchen after a physical injury.

–Story by Eric Brandner, USO Director of Story Development

 

With Parents Deployed, Military Toddlers Confront Monsters

He’s the baby on the block, but he already knows his A, B, C’s; his 1, 2, 3’s; and his Do-re-mi’s. He’s perpetually turned 3-and-a-half for nearly 20 years, but he’s still “got new shoes.”

For toddlers, he’s an A-List celebrity. For parents, he’s nothing short of a red felt superhero.

Elmo is back with the Sesame Street gang in the USO’s longest-running traveling show and the first-ever designed specifically for military families.

The Rood family and the Mowry family got a chance to meet the whole gang back stage, May 16, at the Wallace Theater on Ft. Belvoir. USO photo by Joseph Andrew Lee

Families like the Roods, who saw the Sesame Street/USO Experience at Fort Belvoir just three weeks before moving to a new duty station. Their 2-year-old son Deyvian may be too young to absorb what’s happening, but his older brother, 4-year-old Marques, will have to make new friends for the first time.

“I think it’s pretty cool how they incorporated a new character to talk about relocation,” said Army Staff Sgt. Jeffrey Rood, who came with his two sons and his wife, Kimberly, to see the show May 14 at the Wallace Theater.

Make no mistake—Marques and Deyvian are both diehard Elmo fans. But they might find they have a lot in common with the new kid on Sesame Street.  Her name is Katie, and she’s a 6-year-old military child moving to a new place. She is confronted with the same concerns of today’s real life military families like the Roods—the separation and anxiety of a deployment, and the stress of packing up every few years and relocating to a new base, a new city or a new country.

Ella Terry, 5-year-old daughter of Navy LCDR Ronald Terry, connects with Sesame Street character Katie, a 6-year-old girl who understands what it’s like to move to a new duty station. USO photo by Joseph Andrew Lee

Ella Terry is just 5 years old, and she likes that “Katie had a daddy in the military too.”

“I am a military child and you are a military spout (spouse),” she said, pointing to her mom, Beth, wife of Navy LCDR Ronald Terry.

“Ella has already moved from Maine to San Diego to Washington D.C. in just her first 15 months of life,” said Beth Terry. “And though the transitions were great and she had no idea it was happening, in a couple years we will move again, and I appreciate being able to remind her of Katie.”

Army Staff Sgt. Ryan Mowry is currently deployed to Afghanistan. His 2-year-old daughter, Keirah, attended the show with her mom, Crystal. At night, Keirah dances with her Rock and Roll Elmo doll and spins around giggling every time she hears him laugh. Her mom recalls doing the same thing when she was young.

“I remember learning so much from Sesame Street,” Crystal said. “Now, being able to watch her enjoy and grow up with the same characters, it is just incredible.”

Before the show, the Mowrys and the Roods had the chance to actually meet Elmo, Katie and the whole gang face to face. After her one-on-one with the not-so little red monster, Keirah was elated.

When asked what her deployed daddy would think about her meeting Elmo, her jubilation quickly subsided and her brows began knitting. She responded quietly, staring down at her feet.

“Daddy’s far, far away for work,” she said. ~ Story and photos by Joseph Andrew Lee, USO Staff Writer

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The Sesame Street/USO Experience for Military Families tour has performed more than 371 shows on 115 installations in 33 states and 12 countries – lifting the spirits of 222,000+ military families. Tour dates, character bios and tour information can be found at www.uso.org/sesame

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