Take Time to Honor the Living, As Well

Center Managers across the Southwest Asia (SWA) region were tasked to come up with unique way of saying thank you to USO Sponsors as part of Operation Thank You. Joe Bowman, Camp LSA Duty Manager, had the idea to create an American flag made of uniforms, soldiers’ patches, and flak jacket material that represents all the service men and women stationed in the SWA region. USO staff, volunteers, and Troops proudly stand with the finished product in December 2009.

by Sloan Gibson, President and CEO of the USO:

Each Memorial Day, American flags around the world are lowered to half-staff. It’s a quiet gesture that reminds us of those former defenders who are no longer with us.

At noon, though, the flags are returned to the top of their poles, symbolizing the continuity of this nation. That gesture is an affirmation that the nation lives on, and is not in mourning.

Symbolism aside, the last Monday in May is the most solemn holiday for most American veterans. The day is celebrated at cemeteries and town squares – at barbecues and baseball games. It is an opportunity to pause for a moment to reflect on the service and sacrifice of millions of Americans who risked their lives to ensure our freedoms. It’s a time for us to issue one more “Thank You” to those who cannot celebrate with us.
Since the last quarter of the 19th Century, that has been the case. Graves are made tidy, and veterans tell their stories to their grandchildren, and the cycle continues in times of war and peace.

For nearly nine years this generation’s service men and women have been going into combat, with predictable costs — many deaths and an astonishing number of life altering injuries that would likely have been fatal just a generation ago. So, I propose that this year as we remember those who have died, we pay additional attention to those who return changed forever.

Of course, I mean no disrespect to those, like my father, we honor on Memorial Day, but each day, I am reminded about the other casualties of combat. When I visit a military hospital, I see young men and women who are facing a life they could not anticipate. I see their wounds and witness their limitless spirit as they work to recover. And, I wonder.

I wonder what will happen when the sergeant leaves the service and security of his surroundings wherever he is recovering, and goes back to a town he left years before. It is very likely that the people in his community haven’t been thinking about Iraq or Afghanistan or the men and women who serve there. How will he be welcomed back?

I wonder about the former helicopter pilot who was shot down and has been learning how to walk again. Does the community she left remember her? Will she be welcomed home not only as a hero, but also as a productive citizen?

This nation has gone through radical changes since the 1960s and 1970s, particularly in how it responds to its troops. For whatever reason, our troops today are accorded the respect they have earned, and do not face the antipathy many Vietnam veterans experienced. That’s a good thing, and it reflects well on Americans.

But one thing is apparent to those of us who deal with our service men and women nearly everywhere they serve. This nation has not come to grips with the fact that hundreds of thousands of their fellow citizens are serving in harm’s way, and sometimes they become a casualty of war.

Those who serve ask little of us. A simple expression of thanks and to be accepted and given the chance to prove their worth is often more than enough. They want to continue to contribute.

So, on this Memorial Day, we honor those no longer with us. But, let’s also take a moment and thank those who do return and offer them our gratitude and the opportunity to have full and productive lives.

This essay is also available online from The Hill.

The Patriotic Six is Back!

It’s that special time of year again when we at the USO salute our men and women in uniform – and all who have served – by celebrating the six weeks (or thereabouts) between Memorial Day and July 4th.  We call it “The Patriotic Six” and this year we have so many ways that YOU can show your support!

  • Check out the website – it’s your one-stop shop for all things Patriotic Six.
  • Grab the widget – get a new patriotic fact every day and share it on all of your social networking sites; there’s even an iPhone App!
  • Add the Twibbon to your Twitter avatar – create a free account and you can position the Patriotic Six logo wherever you like
  • Change your desktop wallpaper – add one of our customized camo backgrounds for work or home computers
  • Fan us on Facebook – we’re looking to reach “60 in 6″ – 60,000 fans in six weeks, that is!  It’s a big goal, but we know we can reach it and show the world how much support the USO has on Facebook!

Finally, we want to let you know that each week during the Patriotic Six we have a fantastic giveaway!  Today we have the DVD of Dear John – just released today – along with USO-branded goodies for one lucky blog reader.  [Please note: this contest has already ended, but we'll have another great one next week!]

To enter the contest, just leave a comment on today’s blog letting us know how YOU plan to celebrate during the Patriotic Six.  One comment will be selected at random to receive the gift pack.  Sorry, but USO employees and their families are not eligible.

We have many more exiting things in store for your during the next six weeks.  Be sure to bookmark the blog or add it to your RSS feed for all the latest Patriotic Six happenings.

UPDATE: We’ve added the trailer!  There’s still time to comment; we’ll draw the winner on Thursday at Noon EST.
Channing Tatum stars in ‘Dear John,’ a romantic drama about a soldier who falls in love with a conservative college student. Based on the novel by Nicholas Sparks.

more about “dear john“, posted with vodpod

Catch this Sunday’s “Army Wives” Episodes Featuring a USO Concert!

Country music superstar Wynonna Judd has supported the USO for years, including this concert for Troops and their families in 2004. (Photo property of USO Archives)

Happy Armed Forces Day!

It’s a great weekend to celebrate the military and do we have a special treat for you.  Tomorrow night the series “Army Wives” features… a USO concert! From the Army Wives Episode Guide: “Ft. Marshall is buzzing with anticipation of the upcoming USO concert featuring Wynona Judd and Five for Fighting. Pamela throws herself into helping Claudia Joy organize the concert in order to avoid thinking about Chase’s upcoming return. Meanwhile, in Iraq, Joan struggles to keep morale up amongst her troops. The tribe comes together to support and encourage fellow Army Wife Marisol (guest-star Gina Rodriquez) to be honest about her husband’s abusive actions.”

Awesome!  We can’t wait for tomorrow night.  Be sure to tune in on Lifetime at 10 pm et/pt.  Check out a sneak preview below…

Cinco de Mayo in Style!

The USO Center at Fort Belvoir celebrated Cinco De Mayo in style, hosting a lunchtime Cinco De Mayo party. Active duty soldiers, Marines and family members living at Fort Belvoir came by for the festivities. USO staff served up tacos, chips and salsa, and Pina Colada flavored Cotton Candy! The fiesta was complete with piñatas and sombreros!

USO Fort Belvoir Center coordinator, EmilyJane McLoughlin, readies a military child for her shot at the piñata. (USO Photo by Lauren Ross)

Soldiers and marines came out to USO’s Cinco De Mayo party on Fort Belvoir. The food was terrific! (USO Photo by Lauren Ross)

Mother’s Day Across the Miles

The good folks at Baghdad USO have forged a great relationship with Operation Write Home, a volunteer organization that has approximately 2,500 talented crafters across the USA making unique greeting cards for the service members at Sather Air Base in Baghdad.  OWH supplies cards for every occasion, whether Birthday, Anniversary, Miss You – or holidays including Easter, Mother’s Day and St. Patrick’s Day.  Sather AB has received over 600 Valentine’s Day cards and every single one was used!  They were also very fortunate to have one of their volunteers, who happens to be a master woodworker, make a beautiful card rack to display the cards in the reception area.

To commemorate Mother’s Day, Operation Write Home asked Baghdad USO to take pictures of our wonderful troops for their website.  They hope to ensure that all Mothers will receive a card from their service members who are passing through Sather AB.  USO Baghdad recently provided photos that are included in Operation Write Home’s video tribute to Moms everywhere, shown below.

Happy (early) Mother’s Day…we hope you enjoy!

4Troops Special Presale Offer

The group 4TROOPS performed the National Anthem at NASCAR's Food City 500 on March 21 in Bristol TN.

Mother’s Day is right around the corner and what better gift than the new CD from 4Troops?  Okay, so since it’s only available for pre-sale on Amazon right now she might not get it in time for the actual holiday…but we have a special coupon code that will save you $2 off the retail price!

4Troops is a singing group comprised of 4 US Iraq and Afghanistan combat veterans, who sing uplifting songs on behalf of troops everywhere.  You may have seen them on Good Morning America and Fox & Friends…and our blog!

Starting today – Tuesday, April 27 – and running until the day before in-store sales begin on Monday, May 10, simply type in the coupon code uso4troo when you pre-order the CD and get this special discount.  We’ll also remind you that Sony Music will donate 50 cents from each sale of the 4TROOPS album in the United States to charity. The donation benefits the IAVA, Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund and – our favorite! – the USO.

We’re honored by 4Troops’ support and hope you enjoy the video below, when the group performed with Lee Greenwood at Bristol before the NASCAR race…

more about “4Troops Videos | The Official 4Troop…“, posted with vodpod