A Moment Amid a Milestone: USO and What to Expect Creates a Big Day for Military Moms in the D.C. Area

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SPRINGFIELD, Virginia–Sometimes in life’s biggest moments, it’s the little things that matter most.

Military moms are often far away from family and friends during their pregnancies. Knowing this, the USO and the What to Expect Foundation partner to host Special Delivery baby showers to give these moms a moment of appreciation.

This week, more than 100 new moms and moms-to-be attended Special Delivery baby showers for the Fort Belvoir, Virginia, and Fort Meade, Maryland, military communities.

“It means a lot [to be here],” said Tanya Gehrig at one of this week’s baby showers. Gehrig is a Navy spouse and a proud mom of two sons, including one who was born just 12 days ago. “At this table, I was really able to meet some ladies that I could connect with. It was nice to just meet all of these people.”

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Army Maj. Mia Bruner, who is expecting her third child, said she was excited to participate in the event.

“Actually, when I was pregnant with my second child, I saw that they invited pregnant soldiers to these baby showers and really wished I could have attended then,” she said. “I was really happy when I was chosen for this event with this pregnancy.”

Special Delivery attendees enjoyed baby shower games, lunch and baby item raffles. Toward the end of the event, best-selling “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” series author Heidi Murkoff held a candid Q&A, giving advice and tips on topics from pregnancy through a child’s first years. Murkoff even recognized moms in the audience she’d met through the “What to Expect” Facebook page. Murkoff concluded the event with a meet and greet and book signing for the moms in attendance.

The new moms also left with gift bags that included hygiene items for their babies and a storybook. It may not have seemed like a lot, but it made a huge difference to attendees.

“I feel like I should have known that I would need items, but at these events, even the little things help,” Gehrig said. “Some people got big things like strollers and Pack’N Plays [through the raffles], but it means a lot to get a little bottle of lotion and shampoo. It’s one less thing I have to worry about when I am running out to the store. That stuff means a lot to me.”

–By Jessica Battaglia

A Cinderella Story for Military Mom

Sherry Haley is ready for her close-up!

Sherry Haley always puts her family first.

“Normally everything we do is the whole family, all five of us,” says the 32-year-old military wife.

While her husband, Air Force Staff Sgt. Robert Haley, works long hours at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland, Sherry spends all day at home with her three kids, ages 4 to 12.  Taking a break for herself is rarely an option.  She home schools her oldest boy, and all three children have special learning and health needs, making it difficult to leave them with a babysitter.

But after seeing an email about the USO’s Project Cinderella at Fort Meade last month, Haley decided to treat herself to a Saturday on her own.

She wasn’t quite sure what to expect.  What she found was like a fairy tale—a full day of primping and pampering for 120 military wives and active duty servicewomen, with free massages, facials, food, entertainment, prizes, and a high-end goodie bag that included a pashmina and a Coach brand wristlet.

“Normally that’s a little bit out of our price range,” says Haley. “A lot of the things they did for us, it’s not something we normally do.”

“If you’re not going to be the one to do it for yourself, the USO will do it for you!” says Queen Waddell of the Fort Meade USO.  “It’s okay to take some time for yourself.”

Waddell conceived Project Cinderella as an extension of another USO Fort Meade program called Cinderella’s Closet—literally a closet full of new and almost-new gowns available free to servicewomen and military wives who need formal dresses for mandatory military functions.

Project Cinderella is a one-day annual event that takes it to the next level, with a selection of 600 gowns, plus shoes and accessories, bra fittings, advice on dressing for your body type, a tea party for young daughters and tips on military etiquette like how to introduce yourself in a receiving line.

Haley was also selected for a full head-to-toe makeover.  A team of stylists rolled her hair, applied makeup and helped her choose a dress.  At first she rejected their fashion advice.

“With my size I like to stick to darker colors,” says Haley.  “And they said, ‘No, you just find an outfit that accentuates the right things.  You don’t have to dress in black.”

She chose something completely outside her comfort zone, surprising herself and her entire family.

“My four-year-old opened the door and the first thing she said was, ‘Oh Mommy, you’re so boo-tiful!’  So I started crying right away.”

The storybook magic didn’t end there.  Haley won a $500 gift card—with the condition she spend it only on herself.  A few shopping trips later, she’s expanded her wardrobe with new styles, moving beyond basic black into a rainbow of blue and pink and purple.

These days, she takes a little extra time with her hair and makeup, and she credits Project Cinderella with boosting her confidence and sense of self worth.

“It was just like Cinderella. It really was,” she says, “Only when midnight struck, I didn’t lose everything.  My gown got to come home with me, my shoes, the jewelry, and I came away with knowledge of how to do stuff like that for myself.” – Malini Wilkes, USO Director of Story Development

VFW Firefighter of the Year Recognized for USO Volunteerism

Recently named Price George's County VFW Firefighter of the Year, Nicole Orme, stands among troops at Ft. Meade during a USO Thanksgiving Dinner there.

She is a wife, a mother, a firefighter and fund raiser.

Don’t forget patriot and volunteer.

Nicole Orme doesn’t have any family or close friends in the military, but she feels giving back to those who sacrifice so much for us is just “the right thing to do.”

We agree. And so does the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

In fact, the VFW recently recognized Orme as Firefighter of the Year in Prince George’s County, Maryland, for volunteering at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and with the USO of Metropolitan Washington at Fort Meade.

“Orme has as a history of serving our fellow soldiers,” said the VFW in a press release. “She makes her family, Department, and community very proud.”

Last year Orme mobilized the Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Department and her local community to create and send military care packages to hundreds of troops serving overseas through her local USO. One soldier even took the time to write her back, thanking her and letting her know how much his whole unit appreciates the care packages.

“When he returned to the States, I had the opportunity to meet him in person,” said Orme. “He brought me back a flag that was flown above his post. I cherish that flag so much. Every time I see it, my heart is warmed knowing that I brought a smile to that soldier when he needed it most.”

She has made multiple visits to the fourth floor of the military hospital to present care packages to wounded warriors and their families, and she has worked extensively with the USO at Fort Meade, coordinating multiple dinners during Thanksgiving and Christmas, feeding hundreds of soldiers unable to go home for the holidays.

At an awards ceremony last month, each of the four VFW post commanders in Prince George’s County presented Orme with a separate certificate and monetary gift for her selfless contributions to our men and women in uniform.

“I am both humbled and grateful to be recognized for doing something I absolutely love,” said Orme. “I always wanted to say ‘thank you’ to our men and women in uniform, and the easiest way to do that was to get involved with the USO. The fact is, if people like us don’t do this, no one will.” – By Joseph Andrew Lee, USO Staff Writer