A Wish to Last the Year

Miss USA 2011 Alyssa Campanella and USO President Sloan Gibson

When the USO launched its latest initiative, the USO Wishbook, we knew that getting the word out to the American public would be key. And with the holidays just around the corner what better time to debut the initiative than now, giving holiday shoppers a reprieve from crowded malls and relieving them from having to answer the age-old question of “What do you get the person who has it all?”

With gifts ranging from $15 to $5,000 the USO Wishbook – an alternative giving website that solely supports U.S. troops and their families – really does have a gift that can fit every budget. So, how do we get the word out to those looking to deliver some goodness and a touch of home to troops? We teamed up with long-time partner the Miss Universe Organization and headed to New York, where Miss USA 2011 Alyssa Campanella and USO President Sloan Gibson participated in a four-hour satellite media tour with 27 media outlets. When asked about her support of the USO and the USO Wishbook Campanella replied:

“For me its personal, I had a grandfather who served in the Navy and one of my best friends served in Afghanistan in the Marines. I know how my grandfather or best friend would have felt to receive these wonderful gifts. Especially for the holiday season.”

And with more than 6,000 gifts purchased since its Nov. 15th launch, the USO Wishbook is definitely hitting home with military supporters and holiday shoppers, and there are still stories to tell. Like that of Senior Airmen Gabriel Time, who was able to witness the birth of his first child via Skype at a USO center in Kandahar, Afghanistan, or that of CPT Peter Hufman, who was able to stay connected during his deployment with his 4 children, including one-month-old son Isaac, by reading them their favorite bedtime stories. It’s through purchases in support of “Tech to Connect” and “Bedtime Stories,” among the many other gifts available through the USO Wishbook, that the USO is able to continue creating moments like these for our troops and their families.

“We are going to keep the USO Wishbook up all year long,” said USO President Sloan Gibson. “And we will be constantly adding and changing items based on the things that we know troops and their family members appreciate.”

Devoted to building awareness of USO Wishbook, Campanella will once again team up with the USO and this Sunday, Dec. 18, she will join USO Senior Vice President of Marketing and Communications Frank Thorp on Fox & Friends. Tune in at 6:30 am (EST) to learn more about how the USO and the USO Wishbook are making a difference in the lives of today’s troops and military families and help us spread the word. – Sharee Posey, USO Media Specialist

USO Gala 2010 Live Blog

16:47 pm We just saw Sons on Anarchy’s Kim Coates walk through the lobby! Can’t wait to see all of the other celebs throughout the evening…

17:05 pm – Madison Pettis is on stage rehearsing her remarks and she’s talking about her brother, who’s in the Army.  Be sure to check out the video of their reunion on The Bonnie Hunt Show last year.

17:36 – This year’s Volunteer of the Year is Herb Schmeling, who regularly gives 60-80 hours a month to USO Puget Sound Area.  You can read his story here!

17:45 – The Service Member of the Year Award recipients are getting their light and sound check finished up.  We’ll tell you more about each honoree later, but one of the recipients was deployed since the nomination and his wife will be accepting on his behalf.  Way to go!

18:10 – We’ve created a special message wall just for tonight’s event.  You can leave a message of support for troops and their families by clicking here!

18:18Miss USA and Miss Teen USA have both arrived.  They probably have the best jewelry of the night (love the crowns!).

The ballroom at the Marriott Wardman Park is almost ready to welcome troops and their families for USO Gala 2010! (USO photo by Em Hall)

18: 58 – We just met the amazing Hofman family: Dad is deployed and Mom and the four kids are staying in touch with United Through Reading’s Military Program.  They’ll be honored tonight in a special video – be sure to join us for the Military.com live stream at 7:30pm!

19:38 – The live stream will be starting in just a few moments!

19:47 – Just finished the presentation of Colors by the Coast Guard Ceremonial Honor Guard.  Now “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band is performing a rousing medley of each branches’ theme songs!

The Color Guard ascends the main stage at the USO Gala. This year's theme is "A Salute to Military Families." (USO photo by Joe Lee)

19:53 – Bill Engvall just took the stage!  Get ready for some laughs…

20:01 – USO President Sloan Gibson is at the podium thanking our great partners at United Through Reading, TAPS, National Military Family Foundation, The Moyer Foundation, Operation Homefront, United States Olympic Committee, Ride 2 Recovery.

20:09 – Past and present servicemen and women are asked to stand and be recognized, as are all of their family members.  Wounded warriors also stand to be recognized, and they receive a standing ovation!

20:17 – Madison Pettis is taking the stage to introduce our special video on United Through Reading – are you watching along with us on the live stream?

20:30 – Admiral Mullen is at the podium to begin the recognition of the Service Members of the Year.  We’re proud to honor Sergeant Zachary Caleb Dispennette, USA; Sergeant Eric B. Walker, USMC; Petty Officer Kenton J. Stacy, USN; Staff Sergeant Gino P. Kahaunaele, USAF (who is currently deployed, so his award is being presented to his mother, Kimberly Watkins), and Petty Officer Robert T. Emley, USCG.

21:00 – Trisha Yearwood is singing “How Do I Live Without You” right now and there’s not a dry eye in the house…

21:05 – Now she’s singing “We Shall Be Free,” a hit song by her husband, Garth Brooks!

21:20 – It’s time for dinner here at the gala, so take a few minutes to view our first photo album of the night!

21:50 – …and we’re back!  Trevor Romain is sharing a special message with the audience.  He travels around the world helping military kids with tough topics like deployment and loss of a loved one.  And his newest project with us will be specifically for children of wounded warriors – more details coming soon!

22:18 – Chairman of the USO’s Board of Governors Ed Reilly is getting ready to present Volunteer of the Year Herb Schmeling.

22:26 – Bill Engvall has the audience cracking up with a great story about the time he flew in a Thunderbird out of Nellis AFB.  Trust us, he was a little out of his element – ha!

22:34 – President and CEO of TriWest Healthcare Alliance David McIntyre is getting ready to present our Spirit of the USO award to Admiral Thad Allen!

22:43 – It’s all over and what a tremendous event it was!  Thanks for following along with us online and we invite you to visit USO.org for more photos and fun tomorrow morning…