Curtain Call for “Nate The Great” at Military Child of the Year Gala

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Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, delivers remarks Thursday in Arlington, Va., as James Nathaniel Richards looks on. Department of Defense photo

In case you missed it, Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, had a photo op with James Nathaniel Richards – otherwise known as “Nate the Great” – on Thursday in Arlington, Va. The two were together for the fifth annual Military Child of the Year Gala.

If the name doesn’t ring a bell, Nate – whose mom, Lorraine, is a USO San Diego volunteer – contributed to this blog last April. He was the 2012 Navy Military Child of the Year and writes about being a military kid on his own blog, natethegreatmilitarybrat.

The USO continues to celebrate the Month of the Military Child by highlighting programs that help boost morale and provide opportunities to military families worldwide like Trevor Romain presentations and kits and United Through Reading’s Military Program.

–Story by USO Story Development

Project Cinderella

What would military families do without the strength and sacrifice of our military women?

There is no doubt that military women are a large reason why our armed forces are as strong as they are.

To honor these women, USO of Metropolitan Washington hosted its third annual Project Cinderella, an event designed to give military women a day to be pampered. From makeovers by Paul Mitchell to classes on military etiquette and dressing for one’s body, this day long event was packed with ways for military women of all ages to feel empowered and appreciated. For military moms with young daughters, USO-Metro hosted a Shabby Chic Princess Tea Party that included a book reading by Miss Maryland, lunch, arts and crafts, a manners workshop and more. The day was just what military women needed to feel rejuvenated and appreciated for their daily sacrifices. Take a look below to see how much fun everyone had and read more about the event at USO.org.

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You can see even more photos at the Fashion Delivers Facebook page.
Sarah Camille Hipp, Communications Specialist

The Little Champs’ Visit to Manor View ES

We stood among 321 Champs at Manor View ES of Fort Meade to talk about The Little Champs  – Child Heroes Attached to Military Personnel.  Thanks to the USO’s commitment to our Nation’s littlest heroes, each student was given his/her very own copy of the book; to have and to hold, to read and to reread.  Meanwhile, the students had read The Little Champs in their classrooms with their teachers before we arrived.  Their minds, hearts and souls were full.  There was a wellspring of energy and emotion: the school’s guidance counselor noted, finally, this is a book that is about them and for them – and honors them.

The Little Champs accomplished its mission through literature and music, reaching and teaching to multiple learning styles.  The story intertwines their stories, with characters to whom they could relate.   As one parent commented, “the characters are ‘real time.’  My kid takes it wherever she goes.’”   Its characters walk the walk, talk the talk, and ‘feel the feel’ ­– they experience the multitude of emotions that our Champs experience.   Its characters acknowledge their feelings, and deal constructively and proactively with their situation, learning more about their inner strengths in the process.  I like to call it building resiliency by building character.

 Among the feedback from teachers, parents, and the guidance counselor, the story   evoked “Aha!” moments, proud smiles, cathartic tears, grateful giggles, and sighs of relief.

One 5th grade teacher said:  “I want to thank you very much for writing such a wonderful book for our military children.   Fifth graders have a lot of emotions as military children, and they’re not always open with their feelings.  They’re not always able to express what it is that they’re feeling.  They may be angry or upset or sad.

“During the time we were reading the book, they were making so many connections, and having these ‘A-ha’ moments, and just really related to what they were reading.  I had one student who, when the book talked about the Champ whose stomach dropped when the dad was moving the family back to the East Coast – he had experienced the exact same thing.  The student teared up and said, ‘Ms. Ricker, I have that connection.  The same thing happened to me and my family, and my stomach dropped.’  It was an opening to talk about it.

“I really appreciate that there’s a book to help them express their emotions, and lets them know they’re not alone.  These feelings are okay.  It’s okay to be angry.  It’s okay to be sad.  It’s just part of what comes with having a parent deployed or having to move a lot.  It’s a great book, and was a great experience, and one that I really appreciate.

“My favorite part was that we sat cuddled up together on the carpet; the kids were sooo into the book; each kid had his/her own book that s/he could go through; they didn’t want to stop reading until we’d finished . . . it was such a special, warm experience for all of us.”

In addition, each child had created a personalized “I Am Me” card, that they’d then placed in a Champ Chest.  The Champ Chests were decorated by University of MD’s college students, covered with motivational comments, through Operation Champs.   It was quite special to see them place their “I Am Me” cards in the Champ Chests as they headed to feast upon the ice cream treats that awaited . . . another sweet USO touch to make this a most memorable, multi-sensory experience for all!

We walked away with full hearts, full Champ Chests, and the knowledge that we’d reached out and touched the hearts and souls and minds of 321 of our Nation’s littlest heroes. – Debbie Fink, MA, Author 

Trevor Romain Addresses Bullying with Military Children

For some children, “back to school” can mean back to bullies.

Bullying is especially common for military children who, according to the Military Child Education Coalition, move about six to nine times from kindergarten to twelfth grade.

So where’s the good news? Trevor Romain is setting out to help military children in Europe identify and change bullying behavior! During his USO tour, Trevor will also discuss how to recognize the signs that your child is being bullied (or is bullying others), how to talk to your kids about bullying and ways families can cope with this important issue together.

You can hear Trevor’s thoughts about bullying behavior and how to handle it and how Trevor discusses these problems with military children in his interview with the Department of Defense Education Activity.

Bullying Statistics

  • About 71 percent of students report bullying as an on-going problem they face at school.
  • Over half of all students have witnessed a bullying crime take place while at school.
  • A reported 15 percent of all students who don’t show up for school report it to being out of fear of being bullied while at school.
  • About one out of every 10 students drops out or changes schools because of repeated bullying.
  • About 282,000 students are reportedly attacked in high schools throughout the nation each month.

As a nationally-recognized children’s motivational speaker and author, Trevor will also share the USO’s With You All the Way program with military children. Through a partnership between the USO and the Comfort Crew for Military Kids and the Trevor Romain Company, this program focuses on helping children and families cope with deployment, reintegration, and what happens when a parent returns from combat with wounds, both seen and unseen.

People often forget about the sacrifices and hardships that are unique for military children. At the USO, we understand the difficulties military children endure and we are so proud to partner with Trevor in our mission to support and connect with our military children around the world.

Thank you Trevor!

- Sarah Camille Hipp, Communications Specialist

Heartwarming Stories From the Troops

One of the greatest comforts you can give our troops is letting them know their families are taken care of while they spend months serving their country far from home.

These words from one military wife offer a glimpse of that special feeling our troops get:

“The night before my husband left for deployment he was reading the children their bedtime story, but in the middle of it, he broke down. He hugged them and told them he was just going to miss bedtime stories with them. Our son put his arm around his dad’s shoulders to comfort him and said, ‘It’s okay, Daddy. Remember? You can still read to us on the DVDs that you send…just like last time!'”

Through your support for the USO’s partnership with United Through Reading’s Military Program, you can help deliver powerful moments like this to tens of thousands of our troops. It would mean so much to them.

Help make more special moments possible for our troops by donating $10 or more to support the USO’s partnership with United Through Reading’s Military Program, hosted at over 70 USO locations worldwide.

Your support will allow our troops to read a bedtime story to their children and then send a personalized DVD recording of it back home. I asked one troop to describe what this program means to him, and his response nearly brought me to tears:

“The USO and United Through Reading® filled a communication void with my two-year old son. He interacted with the video of me reading, and my wife reported back on the parts of the story that he responded to and what he said. I felt like I was having a dialogue with him that I couldn’t have had by any other means.”

There’s nothing more powerful than a parent’s love for their child. And nothing more touching than knowing you’ve helped a parent in the military play an important part in the life of their son or daughter.

Make a donation to connect more troops with the children they’re missing back home through the USO’s partnership with United Through Reading®.

It’s the least we can do for these selfless and brave individuals who sacrifice so much to serve our nation and protect our way of life.

Thanks for making this amazing program possible – Kelli Seely, Senior Vice President, Chief Development Officer, USO

P.S. — Thanks to people like you, the USO has been able to join forces with United Through Reading® and deliver over 240,000 bedtime videos and storybooks over the last five years. Please help us keep reaching more troops and their families.

USO Houston Presents Essay Contest Winner

How has military service made your family unique?

That is the question that USO Houston asked military children to answer in their recent essay contest.

On Armed Forces Day, Saturday, May 19th, tenth grader Cheyenne Cavazos was named the winner. Cheyenne’s mother, Pamela Cavazos, said, “Cheyenne was very surprised and happy that she won the contest.”

With a father who serves in the Texas Army National Guard 551st Multi-Role Bridge Company, Cheyenne felt compelled to write about his deployments and how their family changes when he is away.

Like her father, Cheyenne is a leader for the military community. She is the Region 5 Representative for Southeast Texas in the Texas Army National Guard’s Youth Program.

Cheyenne’s essay illustrates what makes her family special and different from non-military families. She explains how everyone in a military family makes a sacrifice, not just the person serving.

That sacrifice is something Pamela Cavazos agrees with fully. “I wish more people would understand that family members of a soldier also sacrifice for this country,” she said. “Family members need support while the soldiers are away. But, regardless we all serve as one and we are very proud of our soldiers and our country.”

When they found out Cheyenne’s expressive essay had won USO Houston’s contest, Pamela Cavazos said she and her husband were very emotional and proud of their daughter’s accomplishment.

Here is Cheyenne’s winning essay:

I consider my family a unique, one of a kind family because we all serve, not just the “Green Suitor” all of us have our ups and downs, but find a way to get through it no matter how far apart we are from each other.

Family means a group consisting of parents and children living together in the same household. As a military family it’s not as simple. Growing up in a “military family” you learn there is much more than just being together, you learn respect, communication, sacrifice, and strength while your loved one risks their life to keep you as well as their country safe.

As a military family, making sacrifices is something you grow into, not always do we as a military family get to live together in the same household. Many times one has to leave for a period of time living somewhere different. A military family sticks together; it’s a family closer than most. It’s a wife without her spouse; it’s a daughter without her dad to watch her go on her first date because he is sacrificing his life.

No family is the same but a military family is a one of a kind family. In our military family as a child I knew what it meant when my dad goes to work, for most families it’s a 9-5 job, when my dad goes to work it’s a 24 hour job. Not a suit and tie but his ACU’s with his tan scuffed up boots. Not a suitcase in hand but a gun when in combat. After a long day of work most dads would come home eat dinner as they talk about their day and then spend time with his wife and kids. After a long day at work our soldier would open and heat up and MRE for dinner after walking a mile to the nearest phone to call home to hear his wife’s voice as she gets on to the kids for running in the house. Then go back to his room to play a game of Sudoku while munching on Girl Scout cookies and jalapeño chips his daughter mailed out two weeks prior. For my family this is a normal life when my dad’s deployed.

A family that sticks together through ups and downs and always tries to find a way to stay positive when duty calls; it’s a family where everyone serves, it’s a unique family, my family.

Cheyenne Cavazos

Cheyenne’s grand prize is an all-inclusive two night stay at Benchmark Hospitality International’s The Woodlands Resort for a family of four. This wonderful prize was made possible through the USO’s partnership with Benchmark Hospitality International.

USO Houston hopes to present Cheyenne and her family with the grand prize on-air at their Memorial Day phone bank on Monday. Congratulations Cheyenne on your beautifully written essay! – Sarah Camille Hipp, Communications Specialist