The USO’s Iraq Legacy: A Decade of Evolving Support for America’s Troops

This week marks the 10th anniversary of the United States’ invasion of Iraq.

While American forces have been out of that country for more than a year, the legacy of the war is still sorting itself out.

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USO photo

With the absence of a draft, the conflict pushed America’s all-volunteer force to bear its greatest burden to date, with multiple deployments becoming a large concern on the home front. While the death toll was comparatively low when pitted against previous American conflicts, the extent of the injuries – both mental and physical – were unlike anything the country had openly dealt with before.

But while warfare evolved, one thing didn’t change. Through the last decade, the USO was by the side of our troops on the battlefield and their families at home.

We were there providing millions of phone calls home.

We were there delivering the comforts of home to desert battlefields.

We were there with a video connection to the delivery room when babies were being born.

We were there when the dread of losing a loved one came into focus in the form of a temporary casket being transferred on the tarmac at Dover Air Base, Del.

And we were there when America’s heroes returned, hosting happy homecomings at airports for the majority of troops who made it back unscathed and providing programs for others to deal with the physical and invisible wounds of war. To better confront these issues facing wounded, ill and injured troops, the USO conceived and constructed two Warrior and Family Centers to help them and their families both recover and get on the right track to rewarding lives and new careers.

Thanks to the generous support of the American people, the USO was always by the side of our troops and families during the Iraq War. And we’ll continue to be there, wherever they go.

–Story by USO Story Development

Clear Channel Radio Partners with the USO

Clear Channel Radio has announced a multi-platform campaign for the USO as part of the Company’s Q4 2010 National Community Engagement campaign. Leveraging its radio and digital platforms, Clear Channel Radio will drive awareness for the critical support the USO provides for members of the U.S. military and their families.

“Whether it’s operating in more than 160 USO locations around the world or the hundreds of thousands of care packages sent every year or the vital support they provide for our wounded warriors, the USO symbolizes what it means to ‘Support our Troops,’” said Clay Hunnicutt, Senior Vice President of Programming at Clear Channel Radio. “Our platforms reach millions of Americans and with the enthusiastic backing of our thousands of employees, Clear Channel Radio is dedicated and committed to doing everything we can to promote the great work that the USO is doing for our country’s heroes.”

We’ve created an exclusive USO iheartradio Digital Channel featuring videos, interviews, photos, Facebook and twitter updates of USO programs, soldiers and their families. The channel also includes a section where supporters can directly contribute by making donations to the USO, sending thank you letters and joining “Team USO.”  The USO channel is also available on the iheartradio application on the iPhone, iPhone Touch, Blackberry, and Android devices!

Also part of the campaign are a series of public service announcements (PSAs) developed by Clear Channel, which are being broadcast on more than 850 stations in 150 markets across the nation. From October 1st to December 10th, Clear Channel Radio will run more than 200,000 PSAs, which will include a combination of live read scripts and pre-recorded announcements, to encourage individuals and communities to get involved with the USO by supporting the various programs and services they offer, including the USO’s Wounded Warrior programs, overall fundraising initiatives, care packages and Operation Phone Home efforts, among others.

Cisco Provides Talk Time For The Troops

This troop used the Private Telephone Network to make a call from the Pat Tillman Memorial Center in Bagram, Afghanistan, July 2009. (USO photo by Dave Gatley)

Today the USO announced that for the month of August, Cisco would host as the official sponsor of talk time for the Private Telephone Network under the USO Operation Phone Home® program at the USO Center in Balad, Iraq.  Cisco’s contribution will cover more than 100,000 minutes of talk time home for Troops stationed there.  Thanks, Cisco!

Established in 2003, USO Operation Phone Home delivers prepaid international phone cards to deployed service members free of charge. As one of the most requested items from deployed service members, the prepaid international phone cards continue to be a hit with service men and women. Currently, more than 2.75 million phone cards have been distributed.

In 2009, Operation Phone Home introduced the Private Telephone Network at USO centers in Afghanistan, Iraq and Kuwait.  The Private Telephone Network provides expanded Internet access and crystal clear calls back home at no cost. Since its launch, more than 200,000 calls per month have been made on the system.  Thank you to everyone who has made these calls possible!

You Helped Us Provide 100,000 Phone Calls…Can We Do More?

This is probably the ONLY time you'll see the phone bank at USO Basra this quiet - when the center's closed for cleaning! (USO photo from USO Basra's Facebook page)

We knew our USO family was the best!  Last week we told you how Billy Ray Cyrus showed his support for Operation Phone Home, and how YOU could show support, too.  We challenged you to help provide 100,000 call for troops to their loves ones before July 31, and…

Guess what?  We blew right past our goal!  We heard your response loud and clear, so we’re upping our goal to 250,000 calls for Troops and the deadline of July 31 is fast approaching!

When you donate $15 today, you will provide our brave men and women with 45 calls home.  That’s three calls for every dollar donated!  We couldn’t do what we do without your support.  Know that we’ll be there providing free phones calls and all of the other great programs and services you’ll find at the USO…Until Every One Comes Home.

A Billy Ray Cyrus Concert…and Operation Phone Home!

U.S. service members pose for photos with country singer Billy Ray Cyrus during a USO holiday show at Al Asad Air Base, Iraq, Dec. 19, 2009. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Triah Pendracki/Released)

Country superstar and USO tour veteran Billy Ray Cyrus will play a free concert at 7 p.m. Sunday at Biggs Army Airfield on Fort Bliss.   This event is a special, exclusive performance just for military personnel with valid IDs and their families; the general public will not be admitted. 

Cyrus is a great supporter of the Troops, having gone a week-long, three-country USO tour last December with Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; tennis star Anna Kournikova; and comedian Dave Attell.  He’s also a supporter of Operation Phone Home, a USO program that delivers prepaid international phone cards to deployed service members free of charge, and recently shared this special message that explains how YOU can support the program, too: 

“Being separated from family and loved ones is just one of the many difficult sacrifices our troops make to defend our country and our freedom. But right now, you and I have a special opportunity to help make dealing with that separation just a little easier. 

Thanks to the USO’s Operation Phone Home program, when you donate $15 today, you will provide our brave men and women with 45 calls home.To make the most of this opportunity, the USO has set a goal of 100,000 calls by July 31. It’s an ambitious goal, but it’s one we must take on for our troops. And it’s one we know we can achieve with the help of generous supporters like you. So please, don’t hesitate and join in this great campaign today. 

Thank you,
Billy Ray Cyrus”

Thanks to Billy Ray Cyrus for all he does for our Troops and their families, and thanks to all of YOU who make our programs and services possible.  Let’s make these 100,000 calls by July 31st a reality!

Tell Us About Your Favorite Program!

Many people know the USO for our celebrity entertainment tours and USO Centers in airports around the world.  But did you know that we have a variety of programs that can be enjoyed by service members far beyond the reaches of a center or tour.

And we continue to grow!  Our newest program – Operation Enduring Care – is a “comprehensive long-term initiative to support America’s Wounded Warriors and their families.”  And many local USO Centers also offer programs and services that are unique to the populations they serve.   Your USO is changing…but the fact that we support our Troops and their families will always remain.

Take our quick poll to let us know which program is your favorite, or which one your family enjoys the most.  We’re always looking for feedback and love to hear your personal stories.  PLUS, two lucky blog comments will be chosen at random to win a special USO Prize Pack!  (Sorry, but USO employees and their families are not eligible)

Vote for your favorite above, add your original idea below, and be sure to check out this short video that shows USO2GO in action!