Helping in Healing: Grant from The Bob Woodruff Foundation Supports USO Efforts

During the time her husband, journalist Bob Woodruff, spent recovering from a roadside bomb blast that nearly killed him in Iraq, Lee Woodruff found moments of healing, quiet and temporary escape by gardening.

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USO President Sloan Gibson speaks with Anne Marie Dougherty, center, executive director of the Bob Woodruff Foundation, and Barbara Lau, the foundation’s charitable investment program director, on Feb. 5 at the grand opening of the USO Warrior and Family Center at Fort Belvoir, Va. USO photo by Mike Theiler

It’s no coincidence that recovering troops, their families and caregivers can seek their own peace of mind in the Healing Garden outside the new USO Warrior and Family Center at Fort Belvoir, Va.

The Bob Woodruff Foundation provided a generous grant to the USO to support education, employment training, rehabilitation and quality of life for our nation’s recovering heroes. The foundation also supported the Healing Garden, which will be in full bloom by spring. The garden will provide respite and tranquility for all who visit the center.

Walking from the building to the garden, visitors will read a message from the Bob Woodruff Foundation engraved along the path. Spaced out on the sidewalk will be the words Hope, Faith, Family and Resilience. The last part of the message will read: “Honoring the indomitable human spirit.”

“This is what we believe in. In keeping with what Bob and Lee envisioned for the Foundation, the Bob Woodruff Foundation seeks strategic partners that share a proven history of caring for the wounded and their families and the USO does just that,” said Anne Marie Dougherty, the executive director of the Bob Woodruff Foundation.

–Story by USO Publicaitons

Celebrating Our Heroes this Father’s Day

By Rita Cosby, TV Host and Bestselling Author

This Father’s Day is the most special one in my life and I hope the journey with my heroic father inspires all of you to reach out to your dad and get to know his life’s story as we honor the men in our lives on Father’s Day.

I have just completed the most amazing year of my life and focused much of it on getting to know my own father…finally after many years of separation. I hope all of you will look at my new book, “Quiet Hero: Secrets From My Father’s Past,” available now in bookstores and on line, which many think is the perfect Father’s Day gift! In it, I detail my own journey of self discovery and of getting to know a man who was estranged from me for decades… my own father. He left our family one Christmas which caused great friction and created a very detached relationship, but only now I have come to understand that although my dad is not perfect, what he did for his country and the fight for freedom is truly remarkable and truly inspiring.

My father is now breaking his silence after decades. As a thirteen-year-old he saw his hometown of Warsaw get decimated by Nazi bombs, he then joined the Polish Resistance and started by writing anti-Nazi slogans near the Warsaw Ghetto walls, a death sentence no matter your age. He grew into a full blown fighter, was severely injured, and later became a prisoner of war.

My father sold the suit on his back for a loaf of bread in his POW camp, so he and his comrades had enough energy to escape. At ninety pounds and standing six feet tall, my father and some of his fellow POWs made a daring escape in sheer darkness, and then spent the next few days evading German troops.

One day they saw a beautiful sight.. An American plane coming to the rescue, letting them know US troops were a few miles away. My father has never forgotten the faces of those young American GIs who hugged him and told him his nightmare of war was over.

My father and I have bonded through his sharing this story with me and sharing it for history. We will never forget how important our American military is in preserving freedom throughout the globe, and for saving a weary Polish POW, my father. We are giving a portion of our proceeds from our book, “Quiet Hero: Secrets from My Father’s Past” to the USO‘s great campaign, Operation Enduring Care, to help wounded soldiers and their families. We can think of no better cause and no finer men and women representing our great nation.

On this Father’s Day, let’s all remember the tremendous integrity and bravery of many of our fathers, grandfathers, brothers and loving husbands who are willing to put their lives on the line for freedom not just for America, but for the world. They are all quiet heroes and on this Father’s Day, I am blessed to have learned of one amazing hero in my own life. I love you Dad!

Through her book QUIET HERO, Rita Cosby has joined the USO to help wounded warriors and their families. Ten percent of book proceeds will go towards Operation Enduring Care, a comprehensive long-term initiative to support America’s Wounded Warriors and their families.Click here to purchase the book today!

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As part of our ongoing celebration of the Patriotic Six, we invite you to leave a message below telling us why YOUR father is a hero…we’ll pick two comments at random to win a fantastic USO prize pack!  Sorry, but USO employees and their families are not eligible.

Tied to a Cause: Making a Whale of a Difference

The USO and vineyard vines® have partnered to benefit Operation Enduring Care…and YOU can be a part of it!  The Connecticut-based apparel and accessories brand’s “Tied to a Cause” campaign is a charitable program that honors different charities each month by selling custom classic tote bags and ties in a variety of colors, with proceeds benefiting the featured organization, will be specifically supporting the USO’s Operation Enduring Care initiative through the July 4th weekend, 2010. Click here to check out the limited-edition ties and totes that are available for purchase!

The USO has pledged to raise $100 million over five-years for Operation Enduring Care, a comprehensive long-term initiative to support America’s Wounded Warriors and their families. vineyard vines will sell custom classic tote bags and ties in a variety of colors on their website for the month of June, with all proceeds from sales directly benefiting Operation Enduring Care.  We’ll also be holding in-store events at vineyard vines locations around the country; details are forthcoming.

“To be able to help such an honorable organization as the USO is incredible,” said CEO and co-founder Ian Murray. “Their support of our troops who fight for our freedom is truly commendable. We’re privileged to raise funds for Operation Enduring Care.”

“We are excited about the new relationship with vineyard vines,” said Sloan Gibson, president and CEO of the USO. “As we continue to support the troops and their families, we want to thank vineyard vines for their commitment to raising funds for Operation Enduring Care and Wounded Warriors.”

To celebrate, we’re giving away totes and ties to four lucky blog readers!  Just leave a comment below to tell how how you’d wear YOUR tote or tie to show support of our wounded warriors and Operation Enduring Care.  Would you take the tote to the beach?  Wear the tie to a wedding?  Be creative!

Four winner will be chosen at random; USO employees and their families are not eligible.

USO Family Centers – Operation Enduring Care

You might have read about “Operation Enduring Care” on the blog a couple of weeks ago.  This innovative new program is our comprehensive long-term initiative to support America’s Wounded Warriors and their families.  It asks every American support our wounded warriors and their families. The goal is to implement an interlocking network of care that extends from the point of injury on the battlefield to their return home to communities across America.

To fund Operation Enduring Care, the USO will raise $100 million over five-years in a campaign expected to be substantially complete by the end of 2011.  We’ll keep you posted on all of the updates and highlights as we work together to help those who sacrifice so much move from the battlefield to a full and productive future.

Together, we can make sure this generation of warriors knows their sacrifice is recognized and appreciated.

Operation Enduring Care

From the desk of John Hanson:

“Why is the USO doing this?”  We hear it all the time when we talk about Operation Enduring Care – the USO’s initiative to create programs for wounded warriors and their families.

Mike Augustyn, a Polish soldier injured in Iraq, reacts to a comical charicature created by Tom Richmond, a member of the National Cartoonist Society at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, Oct. 16, 2009, during a USO deployment. (USO photo by Jackie Zettles)

We get it.  People know about the USO, but the one thing they know about most is our outstanding entertainment program.  Why not?  For generations of Americans, Bob Hope was the face of the USO.  And, today celebrities from the stars of Sons of Anarchy to Zac Brown and Toby Keith continue that rich tradition of entertaining troops wherever they serve.

But, truth be told, most service members never see a USO show.  The math doesn’t make that possible.  Most troops and family members know the USO for its network of USO centers – almost 150 today – scattered at military bases and airports across America and around the world.  There are 3 USO centers in Kuwait, 3 in Iraq and we’re about to open our 2nd one in Afghanistan (in Kandahar).  In fact, entertainment is not quite 12 percent of what the USO provides.

The USO delivers its brand of care and support to remote forward operating bases and combat outposts through the USO2Go program.  We ship almost everything from athletic equipment and snacks to laptop computers and video games – hundreds of boxes on dozens of pallets are prepared to order and sent to those troops who know isolation better than any of us can imagine.

The USO makes it possible for parents to record a children’s book onto a DVD.  We then send the DVD and the book to the child, so he or she can read along with Mom or Dad.  So far, 100,000 of those recordings have been made.  In 2010 alone, we hope to provide 100,000 of these valuable connections to home.

The USO is the link between the American public and its military.  Each month more than 200,000 free and very clear phone calls are made  over our satellite-based private telephone network.  Now, that’s a link to home!  That network makes it possible for troops to “be in” delivery rooms when children are born; they can watch early steps by children they haven’t seen in months.  Our donors make all of those things possible.

Who Needs us Most?

Now that I’ve stepped on my lead, it’s time to explain Operation Enduring Care.  The program started a few years ago, when we offered duffels of clothing, toiletries and short term needs to wounded warriors arriving at Landstuhl Medical Center in Germany.  We still do that.

But, today Operation Enduring Care includes our most ambitious effort in more than a generation – maybe in the USO’s history.

We will build 2 Wounded Warrior Family Centers in the Washington, D.C. area.  One will be at Ft. Belvoir, Virginia, near an Army hospital that will be built there.  The other will be at the new Walter Reed medical center in Bethesda, Maryland.

Each will be designed to what we call the “audible gasp” standard.

Each will include areas for families and recovering troops to gather outside the hospital.  There will be children’s play areas, kitchens and dining areas for home-cooked meals.  We envision these as warm and welcoming places that symbolize the public’s support for and recognition of the service and sacrifice of troops and their families.

Members of the National Cartoonist Society take a photo with U.S. Army SPC Ben Brashier of Okolona, Miss., at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany Oct. 16, 2009, after sketching him a number of cartoons and characters during their USO deployment. In addition to visiting many wounded soldiers in Germany, the cartoonists are also scheduled to visit more than a dozen military bases in the combat zone. (USO photo by Jackie Zettles)

Why the USO?

The USO is the most trusted brand when it comes to troop support activities.  When the American public thinks about supporting the troops, the USO comes to mind quickly.

These new centers will not be about the USO.  Their sole focus will be on the needs of troops and families as they prepare for a new and productive future.  Other organizations offer programs the USO would not attempt, and their participation will be encouraged.  The USO does not provide job training or career coaching, but these centers can provide space for that to be delivered – to troops and families.

It strikes me that most Americans have little appreciation for the amount of time many of our wounded warriors spend in the hospital.  After all, we know very few people who are ever hospitalized for more than a few days.  But, amputees might spend 18 months recovering from their injuries.  Many wounded warriors face multiple surgeries over many months.  Their families leave their homes to be with them.  The sacrifice is shared and the reintegration to life after the hospital is critical to every one of them.

Their successful re-entry into our communities will be the responsibility of each of us.  They have received the very best medical care, and teams of doctors, nurses and therapists focused on getting these folks well enough to return home.  Home is where we come in.  Not to pity or coddle them, but to give them the opportunities they earned by their service.  The communities they return to should be communities of support.

There will be more on Operation Enduring Care as we break ground and start construction in the coming months.