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!

United Through Reading’s 100,000th Recording Makes It All the Way to Germany!

Sgt. Sosa (c) prepares to read a book to his family back home as CASF USO Manager Rebecca Voelker (r) looks on. (USO Photo by Mrs. Marquita Milligan)

As we were proud to announce earlier this month, United Through Reading’s Military Program and the USO celebrated the 100,000th recording at Virginia Beach’s Patriotic Festival.  Across the Atlantic, USO Centers in Germany also celebrated this milestone

USO Kaiserslautern offers two USO locations for United Through Reading: the Contingency Aeromedical Staging Facility and the Warrior Center. USO Kaiserslautern is excited to announce two more USO centers that just started offering United Through Reading in June: the Deployment Center on Rhine Ordnance Barracks and the Ramstein Terminal. The USO located at the Ramstein Terminal is an open United Through Reading facility for all military ID cardholders in the KMC.

Sgt. Herriot writes a note back to his family before reading a book as part of the United Through Reading program at CASF USO. (USO Photo by Mrs. Marquita Milligan)

On June 15, 2010 the AFN Kaiserslautern news crew came to the CASF USO to record a story over this great accomplishment and interviewed Sgt. Sosa and Sgt. Herriot, two active duty military fathers who work at the CASF. Sgt. Sosa and Sgt. Herriot discussed their feelings over the program and were recorded reading books to their children.  Rebecca Voelker, CASF USO Manager, was interviewed as well and discussed the importance of the United Through Reading program and the significance of the 100,000th recording.  Watch the video below!

USO Kaiserslautern employee Fawn Bennett said she is excited United Through Reading has reached its 100,000th reading.  “The United Through Reading program is truly an awesome idea. The feedback we have been given by the servicemembers has always been outstanding,” she said. “When the child sees the bright yellow package, they know there is a book and a story waiting for them from a loved one.”

Be sure to “Like” CASF USO Germany and USO Grafenwoehr on Facebook and follow USO Grafenwoehr on Twitter, too!

United Through Reading’s Military Program Celebrates 100,000 Recordings!

USO employees (left to right) Alexandra Volp, Patrice Cameau and Director of USO Fort Eustis Mary Moyer bestow some special gifts upon the Butcher family, which includes mom Kerri, 9-year-old Alexis, and 7-year-old Rodney; Sgt Butcher is currently deployed. (USO photo by Lauren Hebert)

As we told you yesterday, Virginia Beach’s Patriotic Festival was a huge success this year, with Ride 2 Recovery rolling into town on Friday and a celebration of the 100,000th recording for United Through Reading’s Military Program.

To mark this momentous occasion, hundreds of supporters watched as a deployed father read a book on the Jumbotron to his children, who were in the audience with their mom.  He had recorded the reading at Fort Eustis and will not return home for many months.  His family was thrilled, however, to be able to see him onscreen and read along at home any time they want, through the DVD and book provided by the USO and United Through Reading.

Thanks so much to the Butcher family, for allowing us to be a part of this special family moment.  And thanks to everyone who came out to the Patriotic Festival to support the USO and our Troops!  Be sure to watch the video recording below, and let us know about your own United Through Reading experiences…

Patriotic Festival attendees watch as Sgt Butcher reads a book about dinosaurs - and completes the 100,000th United Through Reading's Military Program recording - to his family, who was sitting in the audience. (USO photo by Lauren Hebert)

United Through Reading Tonight on NBC Nightly News

Be sure to watch NBC Nightly News this evening, as United Through Reading’s Military Program will be featured!  Learn more about how this innovative program keeps military families connected through the gift of books and a shared story.  Be sure to check your local listings for times.

Can’t wait until tonight to hear about United Through Reading?  Check out this great story from USO Kuwait…

A USO volunteer colors in the United Through Reading logo on a T-wall right outside the USO center at Camp Ali Al Salem. (USO Photo by Duane DeVorak)

Sailor’s Hobby Gives Back to USO
by Duane DeVorak, Media Director, Camp Ali Al Salem

Deployed service members dedicate hard work to their job and the branch they serve in; however that does not mean they have to sacrifice their other hobbies and passions.  One sailor uses his skills as a cartoonist to beautify the base and build morale.

The USO at Camp Ali Al Salem (AAS) was trying to promote the already successful United Through Reading program and Keon Moore, one of the Duty Managers at AAS realized one way to do this was to paint one of the T-Walls outside of the center.

“While on a deployment service members look for any opportunity to bring themselves closer to their families.  Whether it’s through morale calls or e-mails there is always a way to reach that love one back home, but another way to connect to the little one in your life is the USO’s UTR program,” said Moore.  “That’s why it’s so important to promote this program.”

USO Volunteers and Duty Manager Keon Moore work on the Dr. Seuss UTR wall into the wee hours of the night to get it done. The wall was painted to help promote the already popular USO program. (USO Photo by Duane DeVorak)

Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Ronald Kaopuiki had already painted several walls for Navy Customs here at Camp AAS.  It was no surprise when he was asked to paint one for the USO that he agreed to help out in no time

“I did this for the kids basically,” said Kaopuiki.  “By painting this wall I am able to help promote this program and get service members to read to their children.”

Kaopuiki along with three other USO volunteers completed the wall in about seven hours.  The entire wall was done so quickly thanks to his idea of painting with spray paint.

The theme selected was Dr. Seuss, since the popular character is so well known and people will automatically look to see what the wall is all about.

Since 2006, United Through Reading recordings made by troops at USO centers has steadily increased. In the first year, a little more than 4,200 recordings took place at USO locations. The total number grew to more than 20,000 in 2008 and reached 57,000 in 2009.

USO Radio

In this edition of USO Radio, Jim Mayer and Michael Naranjo are two wounded veterans from Vietnam. But they share more than that. They share the common bond of not only overcoming their injuries, but also excelling and giving back long after they had left the battlefield.

Their stories and more are featured in this special episode of what we are calling USO Radio, featuring Blues Traveler’s Forever Owed. Hear Mayer’s and Naranjo’s story – and more, including an exclusive look at the United Through Reading program – by clicking on the image above.

The USO’s Board of Governors Visit Centers in Southwest Asia

Two members of the USO Board of Governors recently toured Kuwait as part of a three-day trip. Dennis Swanson and Sue Timken were accompanied by Sue’s husband William Timken, former US ambassador to Germany, and representatives of other major USO partners, including Sally Ann Zoll, CEO of United Through Reading; Steven Nardizzi, CEO of the Wounded Warrior Project; Mary Louise Austin, CEO of USO Georgia; and Bruce Nitsche of the Wounded Warrior Project.

The overall mission of the trip was to give the board and major stakeholders a chance to see the USO in action.  The tour kicked off with an in-depth look of the Wounded Warrior Unit at Camp Arifjan, where they all got a chance to meet with service members in recovery.  Day two of their journey brought them to Camp Ali Al Salem where USO center director Val Burnham and a few duty managers presented the group with a rundown of the special USO programs, which have started there and are actually implemented at various centers across Kuwait.

After Camp Ali Al Salem it was off to Camp Buehring, where they got a chance to see the difference a few miles make since the two bases are only about 25 miles apart. That night the board members wanted to take some of the USO volunteers out to dinner as a thank you. The last day of the tour the group visited Camp Virginia. At Camp Virginia they got a chance to see the base and what it’s really like for the soldiers there.

We’d like to thank all of these guests for spending time at our centers in Kuwait.  You are welcome back any time!

USO BOG

Dr. Seuss continues to unite family members half way around the world. Sally Zoll CEO of United Through Reading discusses a service member’s book selection while he waits to read to a love one at Camp Buehring, Kuwait. Sally was part of a three day USO Board of Governors tour of Kuwait. (USO Photo by Duane DeVorak)

Even after volunteering 30 hours in three days, this USO volunteer still has a smile on his face as he poses with members of the USO Board of Governors, Dennis Swanson and Sue Timken at Camp Buehring, Kuwait. (USO Photo by Duane DeVorak)

USO Board of Governors member Sue Timken gets a chance to get in on the action when multiple people came up to the USO front desk counter as she checks in service members at USO Camp Buehring. (USO Photo by Duane DeVorak)

USO Board of Governors member Sue Timken (center) gets a chance to feel as confidant as most soldiers do. Timken along with other board members took time to thank service members for all they do while serving in the Persian Gulf. (USO Photo by Duane DeVorak)

Some USO volunteers were so excited to have a nice dinner thanks to the USO Board of Governors who took them to the Seven Seas restaurant in Kuwait City. (USO Photo by Duane DeVorak)

USO volunteers at Camp Ali Al Salem take time to greet USO Board of Governors members and other dignitaries on one of their stops during their tour in Kuwait. (USO Photo by Duane DeVorak)

USO Board of Governors members spend time with troops assigned to the Wounded Warrior Unit at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait. This was just one of their stops as part of a three day tour of Kuwait. (USO Photo by Duane DeVorak)