‘A Big Smile and a Bullhorn’: Admiral Praises USO After Chicago Airport Experience

On occasion, the USO gets notes of appreciation from senior military leaders. Now-retired Army Gen. Carter Ham lauded the USO’s efforts in helping the freed Algerian oil-workers-turned-hostages back in January.

RDML Kirby, John

Rear Adm. John Kirby

Rear Adm. John Kirby, Navy Chief of Information, dropped one of those notes to USO Senior Vice President of Marketing and Communications Frank Thorp two weeks ago. Kirby had just watched his son, Colin, graduate boot camp and traveled with him to Chicago O’Hare International Airport where he encountered a familiar sight.

Here’s the story in Kirby’s words:

[T]he real purpose of this note is to let you know how utterly impressed I was by the USO volunteers at O’Hare airport.

As I mentioned, my son graduated from Navy boot camp last Friday. I had the great fortune to be there with my wife. What a day.

Late that night, as they typically do at [the Navy Recruit Training Command], the new sailors were sent by bus to the airport to await their flights out. Colin was going to Charleston on a flight that left at 0600. Some kids weren’t leaving until after noon.

Didn’t matter. RTC dropped them all off at O’Hare at around 0100 to wait.

Who was there to meet them? A USO volunteer with a big smile and a bullhorn.

He separated them into groups based on their departure times, then marched them all up to the USO facility to drop off their gear and relax. Some stayed there. Some, like my boy, opted to go somewhere else to eat.

But all of them were made to feel welcome and proud. All of them were treated like war heroes by the staff there.

And it was the middle of the night.

I have to tell you, I got a little thick in the throat watching those volunteers check these kids in and answer their questions (some had never traveled on their own) and make them feel special.

They didn’t have to do that. But somehow, I got the feeling that they really believed they DID have to.

We didn’t stay with Colin all the way till his departure time. Some parents did. We figured he’d want a little time with his buddies. Besides, we weren’t worried about him.

He was at the USO.

–Preface by USO Story Development


2013 Warrior Games Highlights

The fourth annual Warrior Games has come to a close in Colorado Springs, and though it was close competition with the Army in every event, the Marines brought home the Chairman’s Cup once again.

“Congratulations to all of the 2013 Warrior Games competitors,” said Charlie Huebner, chief of Paralympics for the U.S. Olympic Committee, during the closing ceremony. “While we celebrate medals, this competition is really an example of how sport can change lives. We hope these service members and veterans don’t stop here. The goal is for them to return home and get involved in sport programs in their communities.”

The competition formally ended Thursday night at the U.S. Air Force Academy in a ceremony honoring the nearly 200 wounded troops and disabled veterans who represented their services in the inaugural Warrior Games.

Troops and veterans from the U.S. and Britain competed in a week-long series of paralympic-type events at the U.S. Olympic Training Center and at the academy. They were challenged as individuals and as teams in shooting, swimming, archery, sitting volleyball, cycling, wheelchair basketball and track and field events.

The USO and all of the volunteers from Colorado were proud to stand by the side of these elite athletes throughout the week of Paralympic competition. Please enjoy this montage of footage from the past week of Warrior Games competition.

–Video and story by Joseph Andrew Lee, USO staff writer

Happy (Belated) Birthday, Navy!

Group of Navy men leave the Wailuku USO club for a tour of the scenic sights on Maui. These tours are arranged by USO. WWII era 1942 - 1947 (Photo from USO archives)

We’re so sorry, Navy!  We meant to wish you Happy 235th Birthday yesterday.  Really, we did!  We hope we can make it up to you with this rarely seen vintage photo from WWII.

ADM Gary Roughead, CNO delivered a special message on the US Navy’s Birthday and we wanted to share that with you, too.  Here’s to another great 235 years…

The USO Welcomes Rear Admiral Frank Thorp IV (USN, ret.) to the Team!

Frank Thorp IV joins the USO as the new Senior Vice President of Marketing & Communications (USO photo by Em Hall)

We’re proud to introduce you to the newest member of the USO team, Frank Thorp IV who is the new Senior Vice President of Marketing & Communications.

Rear Admiral Frank Thorp IV (USN, ret.) is responsible for internal and external communications, brand management and marketing for the USO. Prior to joining the organization in 2010, he was vice president of communications and government operations for AM General, where he directed public relations, marketing, advertising and Washington operations including engagement with Capitol Hill and the Pentagon.

A communications veteran with more than 25 years of experience, Frank’s service with the United States Navy included serving as the Chief of Information, where he was the senior spokesman for the Navy, provided strategic communication counsel to the Secretary of the Navy and Chief of Naval Operations and managed a global team of more than 2,000 communications professionals. Frank also served as a Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense where he led the Department of Defense strategic communication program. His assignments also include Special Assistant for Public Affairs to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and to the Chief of Naval Operations, as well as Chief of Media for US Central Command (forward) during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Frank holds a Bachelor of Science from the United States Naval Academy, a Master of Arts in Public Affairs and Broadcast Journalism from American University in Washington, DC, and a Master of Arts in National Security and Strategic Studies from the Naval War College.

‘Heave a ho there! Sailor’

While many Americans are taking their vacations to the shore, help us identify the harbor in this photo.

Can you identify the location or date of this photo?

The ship names are barely visible, but can you recognize them? Do the cranes in the background or the mountain in the mist give away the location of this place – Stateside or overseas?

According to our records, the USO logo on the armband of the volunteer pictured here was in use from 1974-1983. Do you notice anything else that indicates a more specific date when this photo was taken?

Leave a comment below if you can provide any information about the people, place or date this photo was taken.

‘For you sail at break of day, Hey!’

Military Community – All About Being Inclusive

Military Community – All About Being Inclusive
by Maja Stevanovich

I often get asked why I take such an avid interest in the military community considering I have no formal family ties and am not serving myself. Doing a few entertainment related projects was my first interaction with a community that most who are not directly involved in, typically try not to enter.

Growing up in an extremely patriotic household, I have always had an appreciation for the military but it was only when I started interacting with the various organizations such as the USO, the actual branches and other support groups that I realized how special this community truly is. I was truly inspired by the stories that I would hear or witness that I decided to start my blog and share stories that are happening in the military community that may not exactly be front-page news. There are so many interesting, inspiring, and worthwhile stories that should be a part of our conversations.

As an outsider, it would have been correct to assume that I would have continued to feel that way in my quest to connect with the military community. Instead, I was quickly able to connect with other supporters, military personnel, various support organizations and feel like I have been working with these people for ages.

Navy Facebook Page

U.S. Navy Chief Mass Communication Specialist Palmer Pinckney makes updates to the official U.S. 7th Fleet Facebook social media site Nov. 24, 2009, in Yokosuka, Japan. U.S. 7th Fleet began using social media in Spring 2009 to promote interaction with the people who have an interest in the U.S. Navy. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Gregory Mitchell/Released)

The fact that the military community truly embraces social media, makes it that much easier to connect, learn about their stories and be a part of the larger dialogue going on. If more individuals were exposed to various military blogs, official DoD Twitter or Facebook accounts, they would feel much closer to this community and gain a deeper understanding about who the men and women behind the front lines are and what they represent.

Supporting our troops does mean engaging and there are so many outlets that make that possible. Whether volunteering for a local USO chapter, or keeping up with what is going on through social media, supporting our troops is easier than ever and the satisfaction of giving back to those that give so much to us is unparalleled. With so many of us living busy lives, and struggling to find those precious extra hours, a second look into the military community and who these brave men and women and their families are, is well worth the time.

Maja Stevanovich is the Founder of First Touch Management.  Her blog, Not Your Average Brooklynette, discusses everything from military and marketing communications to social media and pop culture.  The opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of Maja Stevanovich and do not necessarily reflect those of the USO.