Thank You, Brittany Murphy

The USO family was saddened to hear about the death of actress Brittany Murphy on Sunday morning.  She went on tour for us in 2003 to the Persian Gulf.  And did she ever make a great impression on the Troops.

Bernie Rone, the USO’s Director of Celebrity Entertainment Recruiting, was on that tour and recalls Murphy as “A fun-loving young lady who got it.  She went out on the tour for all the right reasons and the troops loved her.”  Not only did Murphy make an impression by stopping to say hi and shake the hand of every service member she encountered, Rone said her talent shined through.  “She actually performed and sang a few numbers with Wayne Newton’s band.  And we were blown away by how good she was.”

Senior Vice President of Communications John Hanson was also on the tour and remembers that even adverse conditions didn’t seem to affect Murphy. “The heat on that tour was unrelenting.  It was over 120 degrees everywhere we went,” explains Hanson.  “Brittany Murphy was there for the troops 15 hours a day every day, and her commitment to the troops was clear from the beginning.  We will miss her compassion, her charm and her generous spirit.”

From the Desk of…

We here at the USO hope this new blog is keeping you informed of the many programs, services, celebrity entertainment tours, and more that our organization has to offer the men and women who bravely serve this nation.  One of the great things about a blog is that we can share the words and thoughts of the people that make this organization what it is.  “From the Desk of…” will serve to give you first-person postings from the USO.  So here, without further ado…

From the desk of John Hanson, Senior Vice President of Communications:

Welcome to this site.  We’ll promise to update you regularly on what the USO is doing and how you can help the troops.  We can’t do what we do without you.

Fort Hood Community Strong

Hood Stadium, just before the start of the Community Strong concert

Right now (the afternoon of December 11), thousands of troops, family members and local citizens have gathered at Ft. Hood, Texas.  They’re participating in a daylong event that featuring some of today’s best performers.  They’re performing for free, just as all of the celebrities we call on do.

Watch this space for photos and videos as they come in.

Most of us who care about U.S. troops and family members are thinking about Afghanistan.  The USO has been taking entertainment tours to Afghanistan for the past 8 years.  With the help of the National Football League, we built the Pat Tillman Memorial USO Center at Bagram Airfield 4 years ago, and it remains a vibrant hub of activity for the troops stationed there and those transiting through the base. It’s right off the flight line, near the passenger terminal.  There’s access to the Internet and we make free phone calls home available, just as we do at all of our centers in the region.  There’s a wide-screen TV for watching movies (and football games), and a great little kitchen for snacks and drinks.  It’s a great representation of home.

John Hanson - SVP Communications

I was honored to escort Marie Tillman when she visited the center just before Thanksgiving.  I think that experience was important for her, and her visit meant a great deal to the men and women stationed there.  All of my trips to Afghanistan, Iraq and Kuwait are emotional, but this one was very special.

Our presence in Afghanistan is expanding, as the U.S. role there is.  In addition to the Tillman Center, we will open a new center across the base.  When we built the first location, there were 8,000 troops at Bagram.  The number has expanded, and we need another place for troops to relax.

We’ve also opened a phone kiosk in Kabul, and our next large center will open in Kandahar in spring.

A word about the Internet and phone calls from the region.  We have known for years that access the Internet and clear phone calls was a challenge.  It was really hard to log on, and sometimes impossible to get a call out of the country.

In April, we bought access to a satellite and created our own private telephone network.  Every USO location in Afghanistan, Iraq and Kuwait has access to the network.  Initially, we thought troops would be thrilled with fast on-line access – and they are.  The most gratifying aspect, though, is that about 180,000 phone calls a month are being made.  It’s great to play a part in that connection to home.

So, we’ll grow in Afghanistan as troops’ needs require.

Stay tuned.