Sons of Anarchy Bring Smiles to the Pacific

Is there a word or phrase that conveys “happily exhausted?” When I first meet Kim Coates, Mark Boone Junior and Dayton Callie of Sons of Anarchy on the last day of their whirlwind tour of the Pacific, that is the first thing that comes to my mind.

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Clockwise from top left: The line snaked around the parking lot; Kim Coates and Mark Boone Junior admire a framed photo of the cast before signing; The actors met with hundreds of troops and their families in the morning

Over the past seven days the trio of actors had visited troops and their families stationed in Japan and Guam, and now Hawaii. This was be the second USO tour for Coates and Boone and the third for Callie. In 2010, the cast set out on their first USO tour together, along with fellow actor Theo Rossi, and delivered cheer and a touch of home to more than 2,000 troops in Kuwait and Iraq. Last year, Callie and Rossi, along with fellow “Sons of Anarchy” star Ron Perlman, spent a day visiting troops and military families at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms in California.

They had just landed the night before, but no time for sun and surf – we were immediately off to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam for a meet and greet event!

The line of hundreds of military members and families wrapped around the parking lot in the hot sun, but it was all cheers smiles as we arrived! For three hours straight, the actors gave out hugs, took pictures and signed posters and t-shirts.

"I'm star struck!" explained one pregnant military spouse after the actors signed her tummy!

“I’m star struck!” explained one pregnant military spouse after the actors signed her tummy!

After a brief lunch, filled with signing more posters, it was off to tour a ship and meet with some of the crew members. Dayton Callie, a Navy veteran who served during the Vietnam War, joked, “In my day we were still using cannon balls!”

Then it was off again to meet hundreds more excited military fans. By this point my back and feet had begun to ache and I couldn’t fathom how they were still standing. Yet they were excited to meet more people and ready with big smiles as they spent two more hours taking pictures and autographing items.

Coates, Boone and Callie at the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor

Coates, Boone and Callie at the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor

Finally, we spent the evening taking a private boat tour of Pearl Harbor, stopping by the USS Arizona Memorial. Awed by its significance, Coates, Boone and Callie agreed that our men and women in the military sacrifice so much and deserve the utmost respect.

Wrapping up the long day and tour with a dinner, the actors were weary but content… and already contemplating what they’ll do next with the USO! - Vyque White, USO Director of New Media

 

Volunteer of the Year – Fourth Quarter Nominees

To recognize the outstanding contributions of our volunteers, USO centers from our four operating regions—Stateside, Europe, Southwest Asia, and the Pacific—nominate a volunteer for “Volunteer of the Quarter” four times a year. This individual has gone above and beyond in supporting our troops and demonstrating their commitment to the USO mission. From this group of outstanding volunteers a “Volunteer of the Year” is then selected for each region, and, from these nominees comes the USO Volunteer of the Year is selected and honored at our annual gala.

Here are the 4th Quarter Volunteer Nominees!

May Grace Enjambre – Europe USO Volunteer of the Quarter

As a single service member living far from her family in the Philippines, May Grace Enjambre knows first hand how difficult it is to be in a new place, separated from loved ones. When she first arrived at her duty station in Naples, it was a bit tough. But like so many of the remarkable men and women serving our country, May decided to use her time to help other troops and their families by volunteering with USO Naples.

May is the center’s Publicity Coordinator, working with the Armed Forces Network and the local public affairs office to inform the local Naval Support Activities center about the USO and its programs.  Despite working two jobs, May gives up her weekends to volunteer with the USO. She’s volunteered more than 600 hours assisting over 4,000 in-transit passengers and 1,000 families during USO events. With young people like May serving in our armed forces, we can rest easier knowing that we are in trusted hands.

David Tennent – United States USO Volunteer of the Year

Dave Tennent is one of USO Puget Sound’s superstar volunteers. Fondly known as “Doughnut Dave,” he established procedures to implement a partnership with the Top Pot Doughnut shop and now spends five nights a week picking up and delivering nearly 300 doughnuts to troops and their families.

Dave serves as the lead volunteer for three weekly shifts, averaging nearly 100 volunteer hours per month. His efforts are critical in helping the USO build relationships with outside organizations like the Boeing Blue Bills, the Kirkland Kiwanians and the Kirkland Interfaith Transitions in Housing Group. He’s urged these groups to volunteer and attend USO sponsored events, giving them a chance to show their commitment to our nation’s service members.  Dave’s efforts and positive attitude ensure that the center is able to serve the troops and their families, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

SSgt. Shaina Newton – Southwest Asia USO Volunteer of the Quarter

Staff Sergeant Shaina Newton is a remarkable service member who truly enjoys supporting fellow troops. When she’s not working 12-hour shifts at her regular duty station, she’s at USO Baghdad, where she averages 64 hours per month, making sure the USO center feels like a “home away from home.”

Shaina is constantly coming up with new initiatives to help lift the spirits of her comrades.  She created a revised volunteer database that maps out daily volunteer and visitor trends. This system helps the center predict needs and determine volunteer recruitment goals.  Not only does she bring her wonderful creativity and good nature to our operations, but she has saved USO Baghdad countless hours in tracking and managing volunteers. Shaina Newton’s contributions to the USO are a testament to her exceptional character and we applaud her service to the center and to our nation.

Tracy Johnson – Pacific Region USO Volunteer of the Quarter

Tracy Johnson is a proud Navy submariner spouse, dedicated mother and USO Guam volunteer. Her smile, hearty laughter, and deep commitment to service make her indispensable to our military and their families. Tracy shows her commitment to our nation’s troops and USO Guam in many ways. When the Sesame Street tour came to Guam, Tracy ensured the event was a success, understanding how important it was for the military children on base.

She also helped sell more than $1,400 in raffle tickets for the USO Guam Gala and readily steps up to staff events like the Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners, Pier Side Flapjack Breakfasts and the furniture auction.  With a heart as big as Texas, and the skills to make things happen, Tracy’s efforts help USO Guam exceed the expectations of guests, and provide the highest level of excellence in service and visitor satisfaction.

News & Notes from Around the World

Kuwait – The different units assigned to Camp Ali Al Salem started a Softball League and the USO sponsored their T-Shirts.  Thomas Lee, a Duty manager at AAS, coordinated the all the logistics to make it happen.

Each team came up with a design and the USO got the shirts made in Kuwait City. The USO logo was placed on each shirt to help promote the USO and to make it all seem as real as possible. The Softball League was created to unite the units and as a way to help boost service members’ morale.

Players get ready to hit the diamond as part of the newly formed softball league in Kuwait.

Stuttgart, Germany – On Friday June 4 2010, USO Stuttgart partnered with FMWR, AUSA and other local organizations to welcome home the 554 MP Co after a one year deployment in Afghanistan.  The USO Mobile Canteen served up hot dogs, the local American Legion grilled up hamburgers and pork steaks that were donated by the VFW.  USO Stuttgart volunteers cooked up sides and  salads, while the Center provided the desserts and cake.  A disc jockey played music and a bouncing castle and inflatable jousting ring provided entertainment for the kids.  In addition, USO Stuttgart raffled off four free entry registrations for our 19th Annual Golf Tournament in August, as well as amusement park tickets.  We take great pride in serving those who continue to serve our great nation!

A USO banner is the perfect way to welcome home Troops returning from Afghanistan!

Kuwait – At Buehring sometimes we have the opportunity to do something a little out of the ordinary. A couple months ago someone asked me if I would hold onto a card for her boyfriend who would be coming through Camp Buehring in June. Being the last stop for all units going into Iraq, Buehring has a constant flow of transient troops. In the flow of troops, Sgt. Ball found me to ask if someone had left him a card…over two months later! It was great to be able to hand deliver the card to brighten his day and help two people make a connection after they both passed through our tent doors!

Reunited, and it feels so good: Sgt. Ball with his card!

Guam – La’Licia is a six year old native of Guam who continues to greatly grieve the loss of her beloved Uncle and godfather — Sergeant Gregory Fejeran –who died at the age of 28 in Operation Enduring Freedom.

When Alicia Yamzon, La’Licia’s mother, shared this information with the Guam USO and that La’Licia had an upcoming birthday, the Guam USO arranged a small party at the USO for La’Licia and her family. USO provided a birthday cake that read “To La’Licia — Happy Birthday — I Love You — From Daddy.” She received presents, and was then connected with her daddy in Afghanistan via Skype…Please click here to read the full story.

The birthday cake from Daddy was held up for him to see, along with the presents and other special gifts for all his children.

USO Galas Galore!

It’s been a busy few weeks for USO’s around the world as they celebrate our Troops with galas.  USO of Metropolitan Washington, USO Hawaii, USO Guam, and USO Korea have all put on wonderful events in April.  We’d like to share a few of the highlights!

On April 8, USO Korea hosted their 39th Annual USO Six Star Salute, a salute to the honorable service and sacrifices of military members securing freedom on the Korean peninsula.  Special guests included Washington State Senator Paull Shin; LTG Joseph F. Fil, Jr; Oh, Sae Chang, Mayor of Dongducheon City; Joseph T. McCabe, president of BAE Systems; and the USO Council of Korea.

The Six Star Salute began in 1970 when a group of Korean civic leaders chose to express their country’s gratitude by bestowing the honorary rank of “Six Star” to exemplary enlisted personnel serving throughout the Republic of Korea.  The tradition continues and this year the USO will honor 39 Americans, 39 Koreans, one Filipino and one Thai.  These service members are selected by their commanders for outstanding duty performance, impeccable personal conduct, advancements in education and contributions to the community.

This year, the eighty junior enlisted personnel from the United Nations Command, U.S. Forces Korea, and Republic of Korea armed services were honored and for two days were regarded as VIPs in the City of Seoul; a highlight was the luncheon hosted by the Mayor of Seoul on April 9.  Each honoree received the USO Six Star Medal and also toured the Korean War Memorial, Kyungbuk Palace, the National Assembly of Korea .  Four honorees also received The USO Scholarship Award, an educational grant that will enable them to continue their educational endeavors.

This year's keynote speaker, Washington State Senator Paull Shin, addresses the audience at USO Korea's 39th Annual Six Star Salute.

On April 14th, USO of Metropolitan Washington feted the Troops at their 28th annual awards dinner.  James L. Jones Jr., national security advisor and retired Marine Corps general, and L. Tammy Duckworth, assistant secretary of intergovernmental and public affairs for the Department of Veterans Affairs and disabled Army pilot, presented the USO Merit Award to actor-musician brothers Kevin and Michael Bacon. They often visit wounded warriors recovering at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., and at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.  American Forces Press Service covered the event.

Also in attendance were Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, U.S. Naval Academy graduate Montel Williams, National Football League Hall of Fame offensive lineman Anthony Munoz, Miss American 2010 Caressa Cameron and author and professional wrestler Mick Foley.  Air Force Secretary Michael B. Donley, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Corps Gen. James E. Cartwright, Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Thad W. Allen and Sgt. Maj. of the Army Kenneth O. Preston also attended, and the 82nd Airborne Division All American Chorus performed.

“I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that there were some 210,000 [troops] serving as we speak around the world, many in harm’s way,” the admiral said. “They give us the opportunity to celebrate as we have tonight. … We should never forget, and keep them in our hearts and prayers.”  It was a tremendous event and we’d like to congratulate USO of Metropolitan Washington and all of the men and women in uniform who were honored!

Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, addresses the audience at the annual USO of Metropolitan Washington Gala in Arlington, Va., April 14, 2010. (DoD photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley)