Breaking the Roles: Jeffrey Ross

Jeffrey Ross entertains the troops at an USO show on Bagram Air Field, August 19, 2005. (U.S. Army photo by SPC Joshua Balog)

“Through Independence Day, HuffPost Impact is running a series of stories called “Breaking the Roles,” highlighting the servicemen and women of our armed forces who don’t typically see the media spotlight, and the remarkable work of the USO, who are tireless in their efforts to support all who defend our country.”

We’re thrilled to announce this six-part series,  running online at the Huffington Post‘s in partnership with Causecast, that tells untold stories of those who support our men and women in uniform!  Check back each day to see the latest interview.

Today kicks off with a hilarious interview of Jeffrey Ross, by Jonathan Daniel Harris.  Ross is a longtime supporter of the USO and the military.  His directorial debut, “Patriot Act: A Jeffrey Ross Home Movie” captured his own life changing experience traveling on a USO tour and entertaining American soldiers stationed around Iraq during the early days of the war.  It screened at many top festivals and even won Best Picture at the Montreal Comedy Festival.  Click here to read our latest blog post on Jeffrey Ross and be sure to follow him on Twitter.

You can also follow HuffPoImpact on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook.  And let us know what you think of the series!

USO’s Around the World are on Facebook!

Regular readers of the blog are no doubt familiar with the USO’s official Facebook fan page, but did you know that USO’s around the globe are now joining in on the fun?

Below is a list of every USO Center that’s currently on Facebook.  We encourage you to “Like” any and all of them, especially if you want to keep tabs on what’s happening to loved ones deployed overseas!  And if we missed one, let us know (and include the link)!  We’ll keep adding to the list as more come on board.

We “Like” it already!

A Military Blogging Community

From the desk of Em Hall, Web Communications Manager for the USO:

If you would have asked me a year ago about the MilBlogging community, I would have asked, what community?  Being new to the world of military nonprofits, I was just beginning to learn about the vast online community that is comprised of and supports the military.  With the recent Department of Defense memorandum issued on the use of social media (officially known as DTM 09-026 Responsible and Effective use of Internet-based Capabilities) and the relaxing of rules governing its usage thereof, the internet has seen a proliferation of Facebook fan pages, Twitter feeds, and blogs related to the military.  I think this is a good thing.

One of the distinct advantages of online-based forms of communication is their ability to provide transparency – to the extent that it’s appropriate and maintains the safety of the Troops – and to react immediately to news and events.  In an age where the average American is probably quite disconnected with the realities of war, providing digital information, images, and videos is essential to remind folks what our men and women in uniform are doing to defend this country.

USO tour veterans Saving Abel performed at the 5th Annual MilBlogging conference. Here they pose with blogger Maja Stevanovich - far right - who won the MilBloggie award for best U.S. Military Supporter blog.

Of course the rules are different for active duty military, veterans, and non-military folks like me, who may or may not work for a military-related organization or company.  But I believe there’s one essential theme that permeates all of these blogs, and that’s the idea that war is complicated and messy, but the people who serve are worthy of our respect.  There’s an air of positivity and supportiveness, even when bloggers are criticizing policy, tactics, or individuals.

I have just now hit the year mark for working at the USO and managing our presence on social media and the web.  I must say it’s a humbling experience, and an honor to do what I do.  With this blog, we aim to provide information on the multi-faceted nature of an organization that lifts the morale of the Troops and their families in nearly 150 locations around the globe.  We can’t tell every USO story, but we can do our best to let you know what we’re up to and how your support makes a difference.

We’re going to keep using new forms of technology and media to communicate with our diverse audiences.  From comments on our photo essays from parents who spot their “kids” serving overseas; to the reflections of veterans, some of whom have been supporting the USO since our very first days; to folks who find us and want nothing more than to support the Troops, whether they personally have any connection to the military: all of these people – and more – are able to engage with the USO in ways that weren’t possible five years ago.

So keep the comments coming on Facebook and this blog, keep Tweeting to us (don’t forget that today is #MilitaryMon), and don’t ever hesitate to be honest and open about the programs and services we’re offering our Troops.  Even if it’s negative feedback, we use it to improve what we’re doing here at the USO.  We’re constantly seeking to improve the ways we tell the USO story.  Until every one comes home.

Register your military blog!

Add yourself to the MilBlogging map!

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.

Tweet to Support the Fort Hood Community!

This Friday, the denizens of Fort Hood will hold “Community Strong,” an event to show how they’ve rallied together to support their Troops, families, and everyone touched by the events of November 5. The USO has been there all the way, providing basic needs to those on the base in the aftermath, and continuing that support to this day from our USO Center and USO Mobile units, and other locations on base.

Now it’s YOUR chance to show your support for Fort Hood! Use the hashtag #CommunityStrong all this week whenever you talk about Fort Hood, culminating on Friday when we hope the anticipated 50,000 attendees will help make this a trending topic on Twitter. How cool would that be?  Make sure to follow us @the_USO and we’ll retweet live updates from the event. “Tweet” you there!