Your USO at Work: February 2014 — Kellie Pickler, Stephen King and Blake Shelton Support the Troops

Country Star Kellie Pickler Brings Good Times to Deployed Troops

Country music singer Kellie Pickler poses alongside Sgt. Jeremy Harrington, left, and Sgt. Robert Epley, who built the stage the trio is sitting on for Pickler’s performance at Forward Operating Base Walton, Afghanistan. USO photo by Eric Raum

Country music singer Kellie Pickler poses alongside Sgt. Jeremy Harrington, left, and Sgt. Robert Epley, who built the stage the trio is sitting on for Pickler’s performance at Forward Operating Base Walton, Afghanistan. USO photo by Eric Raum

Kellie Pickler prides herself on her commitment to our military and more specifically, to the USO.  Since 2007, the country music star has participated in seven USO tours and 75 USO Entertainment events, quickly becoming a performer who is synonymous with the USO’s mission of lifting the spirits of troops and their families.

As part of the USO’s Every Moment Counts campaign, Pickler spent the holidays with troops stationed in Kuwait and Afghanistan, delivering cheer, glad tidings and special presents. Along with the customary meet-and-greets, Pickler treated the troops to five USO shows and visited a military hospital.

The singer also accompanied the USO Christmas Convoy, which delivers hundreds of gifts annually to some of the most remote parts of those countries. NBC News captured the convoy in action and broadcast a story on the “Today Show.” The video can be viewed at tinyurl.com/NBCUSO.

“The USO tours and programs I’ve been a part of have definitely been the highlight of my career, so I’m honored to join the USO in helping to raise awareness about the many precious moments that our troops and their families sacrifice,” Pickler said. “Every Moment Counts is especially close to my heart because it not only recognizes their personal sacrifices, but gives Americans the opportunity to thank our troops with a special gift of a moment.”

Learn how you can help us provide memorable moments for troops by visiting usomoments.org.

Iconic Author King Visits Deployed Troops in Germany

Stephen King shares a moment with Navy Lt. j.g. Pablo Yepez at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany. USO photo by Mike Clifton

Stephen King shares a moment with Navy Lt. j.g. Pablo Yepez at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany. USO photo by Mike Clifton

Stephen King’s words have always moved readers along an emotional roller coaster, but during his USO tour stop at Ramstein Air Base in Germany in November, he also learned how quickly spirits can be lifted with just a handshake and a smile.

“I never realized until earlier this week just how important everyday moments with our nation’s troops and their families really are,” King said. “Volunteering with the USO and spending time with our men and women in uniform was an eye-opening experience that I hope to be able to do again soon. I stand behind the USO’s Every Moment Counts campaign and encourage others to join the USO in supporting our troops.”

As part of his European book tour in support of his latest best-selling novel, “Doctor Sleep,” King teamed with the USO for a day with deployed troops and the medical professionals who care for our wounded heroes. King passed out free copies of the book during visits to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center and the USO Warrior Center and enjoyed mingling with all of the personnel and families.

USO, United Through Reading Partnership Links Deployed Families for Holidays

Army Spc. James Gleason's daughter, , touches the television as she watches him read a book to her via a USO/United Through Reading video. Photo courtesy of the Gleason family

Army Spc. James Gleason’s daughter, , touches the television as she watches him read a book to her via a USO/United Through Reading video. Photo courtesy of the Gleason family

Once a month, Army Spc. James Gleason walks into the USO at Kandahar Airfield in Afghanistan and picks out a book to read to his 2-year-old daughter, Jameson. He makes extra reading trips for special occasions like Halloween and Christmas.

While Gleason wasn’t with his little girl during the holidays, his presence was still felt in their California home, thanks to United Through Reading’s Military Program.
Many USO centers downrange have private rooms with a collection of books where troops can record themselves reading a story to their children back home. The USO then ships each book and recording to their families. The program has been keeping military families connected during deployments since 2006.

“My daughter absolutely loves the books,” wrote Gleason. “Every time she gets one she has the same reactions. She always asks for me and kisses [my image on the screen].

“It surprised her when she heard my voice. … She said, ‘Hi Daddy! Thank you for reading to me!’”

The program partnership helps create holiday moments that Gleason—who is on his first deployment to Afghanistan—and thousands of American troops with families back home will remember.

“It means everything to me,” he wrote. “I’m fighting for my girls and those reactions are priceless.”

The USO needs your help to connect troops to their families back home. Visit uso.org/donate4troops to learn how you can get involved.

Wounded Warriors Receive Business Training Through USO/Georgetown Program

“You worked twelve hours and you slept two. You worked twelve hours and you slept two. In the military, that was just a given,” said Michael Phillips, a 10-year Army veteran and successful UPS Store franchisee.

“Owning your own franchise won’t be much different at first,” the guest speaker told a classroom of transitioning wounded warrior students at Georgetown University School of Continuing Studies. “But now that I’ve got almost five stores bringing in money every day, I’m here to tell you that it’s well worth it.”

In November, the USO collaborated with Georgetown University to offer a certificate in franchise venture planning to wounded warriors, their caregivers and surviving spouses.

Led by Dr. Ben Litalien at Georgetown’s Washington, D.C., campus, the condensed, six-day course was designed to teach wounded, ill and injured soldiers, their caregivers and surviving spouses the fundamental skills needed to start a franchise business.

“We understand that any transition can be difficult, and that injuries, illness or the loss of a loved one can make it even more so,” said USO President/CEO John Pray. “That is why the USO is so committed to our transitioning troops.”

The program focused on both the initial decision to invest in a franchise as well as the operational, tactical and strategic decisions needed to run a successful business. Guest speakers also shared their expertise on the process of transitioning from a career in the military into franchise ownership.

Litalien led students through an intense week of case studies, lectures, guest speakers and meetings with professionals who support our active-duty and veteran communities in business efforts.

At the graduation ceremony, Associate Dean Edwin Schmierer announced the continuation of the program in 2014, and reminded graduates to apply their knowledge and skills in service to others.

“The value of your Georgetown education doesn’t come from how it benefits you,” said Shmierer. “It comes from how you will use it to serve others, and as service members and families of service members, you’re more than familiar with such a sacrifice.”

JCPenney Raises Holiday Cheer, Support for USO

JCPenney’s Jingle Mingle campaign made it easier to spread cheer during the holidays.

Singer Blake Shelton and USO President and CEO John Pray attend a surprise holiday event courtesy of JCPenney on Dec. 19 at Greeley Square Park in New York. Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images

Singer Blake Shelton and USO President/CEO John Pray attend a surprise holiday event courtesy of JCPenney on Dec. 19 at Greeley Square Park in New York. Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images

The company invited everyone to record videos of themselves singing “Silent Night” at jcp.com. Singers could add their videos to an online choir gallery and share them with friends and family. As an incentive to participate, JCPenney donated $20 to the USO for each video submitted to the gallery. Even country music superstar Blake Shelton joined in, teaming up with the USO Show Troupe for a performance in New York City.

As the featured JCP Cares charity partner in December, customers were also invited to round up their in-store or jcp.com purchases to the nearest dollar and donate the difference to the USO. The proceeds raised will support USO programs and services that provide memorable moments for troops and military families around the world. JCPenney’s combined efforts raised more than $2.2 million for the USO.

“Our overall goal is to be a contributing factor to the overall success of the USO,” said Crystal King, senior manager of philanthropy at JCPenney. “Our partnership with the USO really allowed us to discover ourselves as a company. Founder James Cash Penney had an affinity for the military and supported personnel who were deployed and those who returned with injury. It’s our intent to stay true to our roots and continue that relationship, and supporting the military means supporting the USO.”

USO Osan Air Base Duty Manager Dedicated to Serving Troops

USO Osan Air Base Duty Manager Ju-Yeon Park. Courtesy photo

USO Osan Air Base Duty Manager Ju-Yeon Park. Courtesy photo

For many troops and families arriving in South Korea, USO Osan Air Base Duty Manager Ju-Yeon Park is often the first smiling face they see.

“Every day working with the USO provides new and exciting opportunities and challenges,” said Park, whose husband is a senior noncommissioned officer in the South Korean military.  “There is often no guidebook on how to do things, which allows for personal creativity to come up with ideas to entertain [troops] or to make them smile or … make them feel more like they are at home.”

Born and raised in the South Korean capital of Seoul, Park always wanted to work for an international organization, so when a community relations position opened up at the USO in her hometown, she jumped at the opportunity.

“I like that the USO not only supports the U.S. military, but also plays an important part between the military and the local community,” she said. “I wanted to work at the USO more than just about any other [place].”

Park, who started working at USO Camp Kim in 2008, loves to travel and enjoys experiencing new places and trying different foods. She spent five months backpacking around Europe on her own after graduating high school and said the journey gave her new levels of respect and admiration for other cultures and countries.

She has applied some of the lessons learned on that trip to her work with the USO.

“I have had many experiences meeting many people from different nations and different places,” Park said, referring to her job with the USO. “Almost every day I learn new things. I find myself growing, and it’s a feeling that is really nice.”

Sisters in Arms, Comrades at Heart: A Valentine’s Day Celebration

Kelli Picker Skypes with service women at the USO in Kandahar

Kellie Pickler Skypes with service women at a USO in the Middle East

Songs have been written about them and movies made but nothing beats a real-life GNO! What’s that, you ask? Well, it’s a good old-fashioned “Girls Night Out,” and lets be honest, most of us need one every now and again.

No matter the reason or occasion, women around the world have been getting together to laugh, bond and make some life-long memories and friendships. And our servicewomen in Afghanistan and Kuwait are no exception.  Amidst desert conditions, high-stress missions and the added strain of missing their family and loved ones, they’ve managed to take comfort and find strength in their sisterhood.

You won’t find them at their favorite restaurant, or catching the latest tearjerker at the local movie theater, because they’re on a mission to protect and serve and are deployed in theater.  But once a month, you can find them at their local USO centers taking a break from the stresses of deployment, letting their hair down and getting as glammed as one can in the middle of warzone.

Always looking for innovative ways to serve our troops, USO centers in Southwest Asia recognized that the deployed female military population was in need of some Tender Loving Care and instituted their monthly “Ladies Night” events, where troops are given a private space (women only) to pamper themselves.  From nail polish, to sweet treats and chick flicks, USO centers supply servicewomen with the touches of home they’ve been missing.

When six-time USO tour veteran Kellie Pickler traveled to Afghanistan, to perform and show her support for servicemen and women, she came home realizing just how hard it is to for a woman to feel like a woman when she spends her days and nights in the desert, dressed in camouflage.  Once she heard about the USO’s “Ladies Nights,” Pickler knew she wanted to get involved and what better time than Valentine’s Day.  That’s why this Feb. 14th, the singer/songwriter and a team of her sponsors shipped off a supply of items to USO Centers in Afghanistan and Kuwait– so that our servicewomen could have an extra special day of pampering.

“I am grateful to all of our servicemen and women for the sacrifices they make, but I have a special place in my heart for servicewomen. They are some brave, beautiful and dedicated women. That’s why I wanted to do something special just for them this Valentine’s Day.  While our servicewomen are spending this time away from their families and loved ones I wanted them to be able to take a moment and pamper themselves” – Kellie Pickler

Pickler’s support didn’t end there.  She wanted our servicewomen to know exactly how much she appreciated their sacrifices and she told them via Skype.  Troops at USO Kandahar and USO Shindand in Afghanistan and USO Camp Buehring in Kuwait LIVE chatted with the songstress and heard first-hand about how much their service means to America.  And for those USO centers that couldn’t participate, due to connectivity restraints, Pickler recorded a special message of support.

Everyday that our deployed servicewomen are away from home they are missing out on the opportunity to fulfill their roles as mother, wife, sister, daughter or friend.  And there is no doubt that they are missed by their families and loved ones. Even in the harshest of conditions and when the heartache of homesickness seems overwhelming, our troops know that they can lean on each other and that no one understands what they are going through more than their sisters in arms. While we can’t recreate the moments in life that they are missing, we can show our appreciation and let them know how much their service means to us all.   With support from the American public and celebrity volunteers like Kellie Pickler the USO will always be there for our troops delivering goodness and support wherever they serve.   – Sharee Posey, USO Senior Communications Specialist

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

See more pictures at the USO Kandahar Facebook Page and USO Camp Marmal Facebook Page!

Win Kellie Pickler’s Truck (and Help the USO in the Process)

For the last year, critically acclaimed country music singer Kellie Pickler has been driving a Ram 1500 Laramie Longhorn truck courtesy of Ram. Now, you have the chance to win it at auction.

Image

Pickler received a yearlong lease on the truck with the understanding that the vehicle would go up for auction in early 2013 to raise money for the organization of her choice. Pickler – a USO tour veteran – is putting the auction proceeds toward USO Warrior and Family Care, a comprehensive long-term initiative helping to provide wounded, ill and injured troops with the hope and confidence to sustain their journey towards a full and rewarding life.

“I love everything there is to love about my Ram Truck,” Pickler said in a release. “And I have to be honest I am a little sad about giving it up but its for a great cause, and we really want to raise a lot of money for the USO, so please log on and bid.”

Bidding starts today at 7 p.m. ET and will conclude at 7 p.m. ET on Feb. 1. Visit this link – or click on the photo – for more details.

Kellie Pickler Salutes the Troops in “Makin’ Me Fall in Love Again”

Kellie Pickler shows her support for the Troops in her latest video, "Makin' Me Fall in Love Again."

Kellie Pickler shows her support for the Troops in her latest video, "Makin' Me Fall in Love Again."

Kellie Pickler‘s latest video might look familiar to long-time fans of the USO. The three-time USO tour participant and country music singer “chose a 1940s era USO theme to bring “Makin’ Me Fall in Love Again” to life,” as revealed by the Charlotte Observer earlier this month.  Pickler has visited the Persian Gulf and other locations in support of the military, and her USO tours are always a huge hit.

This video had its world premiere on GAC just days ago.  You can also check out the video diary from her first USO tour on her GAC Artist Page.  But first…check out the “Makin Me Fall in Love Again” music video below – and keep an eye out for the USO banner in the background!

Pickler and Pals – Final Photo Essay

Country music star Kellie Pickler reunites with Jamey Johnson (far right) and Randy Houser (far left), and kicks off 2010 with USO entertainment tour to Persian Gulf. Seen here, the trio visits and performs for service members stationed at FOB Bucca Jan. 14, 2010. (USO PHOTO BY DAVE GATLEY)

Troops line up for autographs and photos following a USO concert at COS Kalsu Jan. 16, 2010. (USO Photo by DAVE GATLEY)

Country music newcomer Randy Houser performs a song for troops stationed at Continuing Site Camp Scania Jan. 16, 2010. Catapulting into country music stardom following the release of debut album and emotional ballad “Anything Goes,” Houser is quickly winning over audiences with his believability and riveting vocal prowess. (USO PHOTO BY DAVE GATLEY)

Country music singer Kellie Pickler encourages troops stationed at FOB Bucca to join her in singing one of her songs, which soldiers Jenna Stenger, 24, and and Gina Velasquez, 30, cheerfully accept Jan. 14, 2010. (USO PHOTO BY DAVE GATLEY)

At Continuing Site Camp (CSC) Scania, soldiers gather around as country music singers Kellie Pickler, Jamey Johnson and Randy Houser perform a private USO concert Jan. 16, 2010. In the Persian Gulf to extend their thanks, the trio is visiting numerous combat outposts and performing a series of shows exclusively for U.S. troops. (USO Photo by DAVE GATLEY)

Troops hold up a sign reading "We Love You - 354th MP Company" during a USO performance in the Persian Gulf Jan. 14, 2010. The concert featured country music star Kellie Pickler, singer/songwriter Jamey Johnson and country music newcomer Randy Houser. (USO Photo by DAVE GATLEY)

Singer/songwriter Jamey Johnson sings a song for troops stationed at FOB Basra Operations Center Jan. 14, 2010. A former U.S. Marine, who served eight years of military service, Johnson is known for his songwriting skills and has worked with some of the best in the business including Trace Adkins, George Strait, Lee Ann Womack, Willie Nelson and the Oak Ridge Boys. (USO PHOTO BY DAVE GATLEY)

Singer/songwriter Jamey Johnson (3rd from L) talks with Army and Navy River Patrol Boat operators during a break before a USO concert at FOB Basra Operations Center Jan. 14, 2010. In the region with pals Kellie Pickler and Randy Houser, this is Johnson's first USO tour. (USO PHOTO BY DAVE GATLEY)

Kellie Pickler and the tour group arrive by a CH-47 helicopter at FOB Bucca to perform another USO concert Jan. 14, 2010. A former “American Idol” contestant, Pickler released her self-titled sophomore album in 2008. (USO PHOTO BY DAVE GATLEY)

Pickler and Pals Perform! A Photo Essay

Country music star Kellie Pickler, reunites with Jamey Johnson and Randy Houser kick off 2010 with the USO Tour to the Persian Gulf to bring country music to the front lines. The trio will visit numerous combat outposts in the region, performing a series of shows and posing for photos. The audience was estimated to be between 600 (USO) and 1150 (MWR by 3 counts). (USO Photo by DAVE GATLEY)

Rotating their songs between one another and feeding off of each other's energy, country music stars (L to R) Jamey Johnson, Kellie Pickler and Randy Houser perform a two hour USO concerts for troops serving in the Persian Gulf. This is the first USO tour for Johnson and Houser, and the third for Pickler. (USO Photo by DAVE GATLEY)

Drawing more than 500 U.S. troops, country music singer's Kellie Pickler, Jamey Johnson and Randy Hourser perform together as part of their second USO show Jan. 13, 2010. In the region to boost morale and bring familiar sounds to those serving overseas, the trio will visit numerous combat outposts in the region, perform a series of shows and pose for photos (USO Photo by DAVE GATLEY)

Hundreds of U.S. troops stationed in the Persian Gulf gather to kick back and relax as three of their favorite country music stars perform a USO concert Jan. 12, 2010. (USO Photo by DAVE GATLEY)

Country music star Kellie Pickler, reunites with Jamey Johnson and Randy Houser kick off 2010 with the USO Tour to the Persian Gulf to bring country music to the front lines. The trio will visit numerous combat outposts in the region, performing a series of shows and to pose for photos. (USO Photo by DAVE GATLEY)

Award-winning singer/songwriter Jamey Johnson belts out a song for troops as part of a two-hour USO concert in the Persian Gulf Jan. 12, 2010. A former U.S. Marine who served eight years of military service, Johnson is known for his songwriting skills and has worked with some of the best in the business including Trace Adkins, George Strait, Lee Ann Womack, Willie Nelson and the Oak Ridge Boys. This is his first USO tour. (USO PHOTO BY DAVE GATLEY)

After performing a hi-energy USO concert for more than two hours, country music stars Kellie Pickler, Jamey Johnson and Randy Houser take time out to talk one-on-one with troops and sign autographs Jan. 12, 2010. Kicking off 2010 with a bang, the trio will travel throughout the region to visit troops and extend their heartfelt thanks. (USO PHOTO BY DAVE GATLEY)