USO President Visits Afghanistan

In December, USO President Sloan Gibson and SVP of Operations Alan Reyes visited the Middle East, including a NATO hospital and Southwest Asian USO Centers such as recently recognized USO Kandahar! Check out some of the great pictures here and read more about the Christmas Convoy at USO.org!

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

This Week’s Snag Film: A Fighting Chance

Kyle Maynard has never let anything hold him back...

Kyle Maynard, a born quadruple amputee, who through a “No Excuses” life philosophy has become a nationally-ranked wrestler, strength record-holder, ESPY award-winner, motivational speaker, entrepreneur, best-selling author, and MMA fighter.

A Fighting Chance” is a vivid, character-driven story unlike any before it.  Not only has Maynard learned to live life independently and without prosthetics, in the film he plans to fight in an official Mixed Martial Arts match – a highly controversial and dangerous goal – the film brings us to ask the question: what is a disability?  Should there be regulations against MMA fighting when such high risk is involved? The film ends with the climactic fight that will change Kyle’s life forever.

Maynard’s story is remarkable, and we especially think you’ll be touched by his work with wounded warriors, whom he calls “these heroes of mine.”  Plus, keep an eye out for a cameo by the USO’s own Sloan Gibson!

Like all Snag Films, this documentary is available to view and share for free, online, at any time.  We hope you’ll share it with the ones you love…

Sloan Gibson: Guest of Honor at the Sunset Parade

Sloan Gibson, USO President and CEO , second from left, watches the United States Marine Corps Sunset Parade on the grounds of the Iwo Jima War Memorial in Washington, D.C., on August 3, 2010. The parade followed a reception held in Gibson's honor. (USO photo by Samantha L. Quigley)

On Nov. 10, 1954, the 179th birthday of the United States Marine Corps, a bronze monument modeled after the famous photo of the flag raising on Mount Suribachi, Iwo Jima, was unveiled at the Arlington National Cemetery. President Dwight D. Eisenhower dedicated the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial to all Marines who had died to keep their country free.

Since September 1956, marching and musical units from Marine Barracks, Washington, D.C., have been paying tribute to those whose “Uncommon valor was a common virtue” by presenting Sunset Parades in the shadow of the 32-foot high figures of the United States Marine Corps War Memorial. – “History of the Sunset Parade

The USO was proud to have our President and CEO Sloan Gibson honored at this week’s Sunset Parade.  The parade is comprised of a one hour program that incorporates a precision drill by the Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon and a music by “The Commandant’s Own”, The United States Marine Drum and Bugle Corps.

The Sunset Parade takes place every Tuesday during the summer at the Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington.  Click here for specific dates and times.  The parade is free and open to the public at no charge and attendees are encouraged to bring lawn chairs or blankets for viewing.  We hope to see you there soon!

Sloan Gibson, USO President and CEO, center, chats during a reception in his honor held at the Women's Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery on August 3, 2010. The United States Marine Corps' Sunset Parade on the grounds of the Iwo Jima War Memorial in Washington, D.C., followed the reception. (USO photo by Samantha L. Quigley)

Sloan Gibson, USO President and CEO, center, salutes as members of the United States Marine Corps' Silent Drill Platoon file past for review during the Sunset Parade on the grounds of the Iwo Jima War Memorial on August 3, 2010. The parade followed a reception held in Gibson's honor at the Women's Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery. (USO photo by Samantha L. Quigley)

Lt. Dan Band Says “Ciao” to Naples

Gary Sinise and his 12-member band, the Lt. Dan Band, celebrated Independence Day with over 4,000 military families at an exclusive USO concert, sponsored by TriWest Health Care Alliance, at U.S. Army Garrison Grafenwoehr in Germany, July 4, 2010. (U.S. Army Photo by Gertrud Zach/released)

You know him, you love him, and his band regaled Troops and families with their favorite songs over the 4th of July holiday.  Gary Sinise and the Lt. Dan Band traveled through Germany and Italy for a special pair of concerts earlier this month, entertaining thousands of military families along the way.  Visit their website for the latest updates; they have public concerts coming up in Oshkosh, WI; Airway Heights, WA; and Staten Island, just to name a few.

And be sure to check out our photo essay from the stops in Germany – with USO’s very own CEO and President Sloan Gibson – and enjoy the videos below from Italy!