Coast Guard Squad Wins Houston Dynamo Player-Hosted Soccer Tournament

The Coast Guard squad - in orange jerseys - pose with Houston Dynamo players Tally Hall, top left, and Brad Davis, bottom right, after their victory Saturday. USO photo

The Coast Guard squad – in orange jerseys – pose with Houston Dynamo players Tally Hall, top left, and Brad Davis, bottom right, after their victory Saturday. USO photo

Professional athletes are going above and beyond to support their local troops, and recently they found an excellent partner in USO Houston.

Houston Dynamo midfielder and captain Brad Davis and goalkeeper Tally Hall – founders of Banded Brigade Outdoors – hosted a four-a-side soccer tournament for local troops last week. The tournament included six teams: five from active-duty services plus a veteran squad.

Soldiers from the Army Reserve’s 75th Training Command competed against airmen from the 147th Refueling Wing, Marines from 1st Battalion, 23rd Marine Regiment, sailors from Navy Operations Support Command, Coasties from U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Houston and veterans from Lone Star Veterans Association.

The opening rounds of the tournament, presented by Direct Energy in partnership with Banded Brigade Outdoors and USO Houston, took place Aug. 14 on the Dynamo practice field at Houston Amateur Sports Park . The Marines and Coasties emerged as the top two teams.

“This four-a-side soccer tournament was a terrific display of the esprit de corps of our service members,” said Elizabeth Vallette, director of USO Houston. “The competition was intense, but as you’d expect, the troops were all professional and good sports. It’s gratifying to see several local organizations – Direct Energy, Banded Brigade Outdoors, Houston Dynamo and USO Houston – come together and pool our resources collaboratively around the goal of lifting the spirits of our troops.”

The championship game was held after the Dynamo game at BBVA Compass Stadium on Saturday, where the Coast Guard claimed a 1-0 victory. As a reward, the Coast Guard squad will be treated to a December duck hunt by Banded Brigade Outdoors. USO Houston will support that event, too.

“We at BBO enjoyed this event tremendously,” Davis said. “It was great to see our service members out on the field competing and enjoying themselves.  We enjoyed the camaraderie and the banter that was going on between all the branches and look forward to future events!”

–Story by Joseph Andrew Lee, USO staff writer

USO Centers Around the Globe Celebrate National Volunteer Week

As National Volunteer Week comes to a close, here’s a look at a few of the scores of celebrations held at  centers around the world. The USO’s 27,000-plus volunteers  donated more than 1.375 million hours last year in service to America’s troops and their families..

USO Fort Hood

USO Fort Hood Programs Manager Isabel Hubbard, left, USO volunteer Frank Wright and USO Fort Hood Story Time Coordinator Andrea McDonald attend Wednesday's event. USO photo

USO Fort Hood Programs Manager Isabel Hubbard, left, USO volunteer Frank Wright and USO Fort Hood Story Time Coordinator Andrea McDonald attend Wednesday’s event. USO photo

USO Fort Hood held a luncheon Wednesday to honor its volunteers who logged a total of more than 22,000 hours last year.

“I’m really proud to stand here and see how many amazing people answer the call,” USO Fort Hood Director Robin Crouse told the Killeen (Texas) Daily Herald, which covered the event.

Read more about the event in the Herald’s story.

USO Forward Operating Base Fenty

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USO Forward Operating Base Fenty volunteers share a joke – and a cupcake – during National Volunteer Week. USO photo

The USO at Forward Operating Base Fenty in Afghanistan showed its appreciation to volunteers – almost all of whom are troops themselves – with some baked goods. They posted photos of the volunteers earlier this week.

“Thanks to all the great volunteers at Fenty for all you do for your fellow soldiers!” USO Senior Vice President of Operations Alan Reyes wrote in a Facebook comment about the celebration.

USO Houston

USO centers know how to get creative. To celebrate National Volunteer Week, the staff at USO Houston put together a JibJab breakdance video.

USO Houston had 248 volunteers donate 20,056 hours to their center last year.

USO San Antonio

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USO San Antonio volunteers pose at Wednesday’s USO Volunteer Appreciation Breakfast at the USO’s airport center. USO photo

USO San Antonio held a USO Volunteer Appreciation Breakfast at their airport facility on Wednesday morning.

“We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, ‘We couldn’t do what we do without our volunteers,’” the staff wrote on its Facebook page.

–Story by USO Story Development

USO Roundup: Fort Campbell, Dover and Houston Centers Make Headlines

With more than 160 locations worldwide, news can slip through the cracks here at the USO. With that in mind, here are three items from the last few weeks you should know about:

  • The Little Things: The USO has a lot of initiatives for troops and families on the national level. But each USO location does a lot for the individual service members and families in its community, too. Earlier this week, Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations video journalists did a piece on how USO Delaware stocks the refrigerators for the Fisher House at Dover Air Force Base. Fisher House – part of the families of the fallen community at Dover – offers a free place to stay for families who are repatriating remains of troops killed while serving overseas. Watch the video here.
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USO Fort Campbell Director Kari Burgess, center, accepts the Christian County Chamber of Commerce’s Non-Profit of the Year Award Feb. 12. USO photo

  • Honor for Service: USO Fort Campbell – one of our newest centers – was named Non-Profit of the Year by the Christian County Chamber of Commerce. The award – presented at the chamber’s Small Business Breakfast on Feb. 12 – was sponsored by WHOP-FM, a radio station in Hopkinsville, Ky.
  • Over the Airwaves: USO Houston Director Elizabeth Vallette did an interview with the Houston Public Affairs radio show last week about what’s going on in her center, at USO Houston’s tent at the upcoming Rodeo Houston BBQ Cook-Off and at other USO locations around the world. Vallette is a former Army captain who has gone from using the organization’s services during her deployment to Iraq to helping the USO care for today’s troops. Listen to her interview here.

–Story by USO Story Development

 

Faces of the USO: A New Way to Serve

Screen Shot 2013-01-17 at 2.22.26 PMElizabeth Vallette’s first experience with the USO wasn’t exactly life-changing, but it lifted the spirits of a cash-poor West Point cadet making her way through an airport en route to a training assignment.

“Another cadet came running … up the terminal at us, screaming ‘Free hot dogs at the USO,’” Vallette said.

Later, during a 12-month deployment to Iraq with III Corps in 2004, the USO brought comedian Robin Williams to her base in Baghdad. “His show was perfect timing,” Vallette said. “It was just sinking in that things were not going well. We really needed the pick-me-up, and he delivered.”

After leaving the Army, Vallette spent time as an MBA student at the University of Houston and worked for a Canadian nonprofit in Kabul, Afghanistan.

When the project ended, she saw a job listing for a center director at USO Houston.“It hadn’t ever really occurred to me that you could actually work for the USO … and get paid,” she said.

Since July 2011, she has led a team that serves nearly 35,000 troops and family members with the help of a team of 400 volunteers.

Anyone who wants a taste of Vallette’s Houston hospitality should check out the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo’s World’s Championship in February and checkout the USO’s entry in the bar-b-cue contest. – Derek Turner, USO Sr. Editor

USO Houston Presents Essay Contest Winner

How has military service made your family unique?

That is the question that USO Houston asked military children to answer in their recent essay contest.

On Armed Forces Day, Saturday, May 19th, tenth grader Cheyenne Cavazos was named the winner. Cheyenne’s mother, Pamela Cavazos, said, “Cheyenne was very surprised and happy that she won the contest.”

With a father who serves in the Texas Army National Guard 551st Multi-Role Bridge Company, Cheyenne felt compelled to write about his deployments and how their family changes when he is away.

Like her father, Cheyenne is a leader for the military community. She is the Region 5 Representative for Southeast Texas in the Texas Army National Guard’s Youth Program.

Cheyenne’s essay illustrates what makes her family special and different from non-military families. She explains how everyone in a military family makes a sacrifice, not just the person serving.

That sacrifice is something Pamela Cavazos agrees with fully. “I wish more people would understand that family members of a soldier also sacrifice for this country,” she said. “Family members need support while the soldiers are away. But, regardless we all serve as one and we are very proud of our soldiers and our country.”

When they found out Cheyenne’s expressive essay had won USO Houston’s contest, Pamela Cavazos said she and her husband were very emotional and proud of their daughter’s accomplishment.

Here is Cheyenne’s winning essay:

I consider my family a unique, one of a kind family because we all serve, not just the “Green Suitor” all of us have our ups and downs, but find a way to get through it no matter how far apart we are from each other.

Family means a group consisting of parents and children living together in the same household. As a military family it’s not as simple. Growing up in a “military family” you learn there is much more than just being together, you learn respect, communication, sacrifice, and strength while your loved one risks their life to keep you as well as their country safe.

As a military family, making sacrifices is something you grow into, not always do we as a military family get to live together in the same household. Many times one has to leave for a period of time living somewhere different. A military family sticks together; it’s a family closer than most. It’s a wife without her spouse; it’s a daughter without her dad to watch her go on her first date because he is sacrificing his life.

No family is the same but a military family is a one of a kind family. In our military family as a child I knew what it meant when my dad goes to work, for most families it’s a 9-5 job, when my dad goes to work it’s a 24 hour job. Not a suit and tie but his ACU’s with his tan scuffed up boots. Not a suitcase in hand but a gun when in combat. After a long day of work most dads would come home eat dinner as they talk about their day and then spend time with his wife and kids. After a long day at work our soldier would open and heat up and MRE for dinner after walking a mile to the nearest phone to call home to hear his wife’s voice as she gets on to the kids for running in the house. Then go back to his room to play a game of Sudoku while munching on Girl Scout cookies and jalapeño chips his daughter mailed out two weeks prior. For my family this is a normal life when my dad’s deployed.

A family that sticks together through ups and downs and always tries to find a way to stay positive when duty calls; it’s a family where everyone serves, it’s a unique family, my family.

Cheyenne Cavazos

Cheyenne’s grand prize is an all-inclusive two night stay at Benchmark Hospitality International’s The Woodlands Resort for a family of four. This wonderful prize was made possible through the USO’s partnership with Benchmark Hospitality International.

USO Houston hopes to present Cheyenne and her family with the grand prize on-air at their Memorial Day phone bank on Monday. Congratulations Cheyenne on your beautifully written essay! – Sarah Camille Hipp, Communications Specialist

Dearfoams’ Celebrity Slipper Fairies Give the Gift of Comfort to the USO This Holiday Season

Dearfoams is honored to give back to the USO (United Service Organizations) this Christmas by hosting the Celebrity Slipper Fairy Challenge. Celebrities, including Mario Lopez (host of “Extra,” “Saved by the Baby”), Gretchen Rossi (“The Real Housewives of Orange County”), Madison Pettis (The Game Plan, Disney’s “Cory in the House,”), Shaunie O’Neal (“Basketball Wives”), George Wallace (performer, The Flamingo Las Vegas), and You-Tube sensation Elle Fowler, will be donating over 3,500 pairs of Dearfoams to the soldiers as a holiday gift. The goal of The Celebrity Slipper Fairy Challenge is to visit USO locations across the country and bring comfort to the soldiers and their families this holiday.

“We are so pleased to honor the USO and give back to the soldiers and their families,” says Rachel Iannarino, Dearfoams Sr. Brand Manager, R.G. Barry Corporation. “We want our gift to bring joy, comfort, and happiness to the soldiers who fight every day to protect our country. To have help from our celebrity friends is an extreme honor and we couldn’t be more proud of being able to deliver the gift of comfort. We are grateful for the privilege and opportunity to give something back to those who give their all.”

“On behalf of the USO we would like to say thank you to Dearfoams for their gracious gift to our service men and women,” said Cathy Martens, USO Vice President of Corporate Alliance. “This is a great touch of home for our troops during the holidays.”

Dearfoams will donate 3,500 slippers to soldiers and their families at various bases across the United States including USO Fort Riley (Kansas), USO Denver, USO South Carolina, USO Houston, and USO Fort Hood (Texas). Each location will receive a generous donation on the behalf the Dearfoams Celebrity Slipper Fairies just in time for Christmas.

For more information about Dearfoams, visit http://www.Dearfoams.com and to watch The Celebrity Slipper Fairy Videos, visit www.slipperfairy.com. To learn more about the USO and to give a little to those who give their all, visit: http://www.uso.org.