Snow Problem? No Problem: Some USO Centers Stay Open Late for Troops Despite Weather

You may have heard it snowed yesterday on the East Coast. While news of cancelled flights and videos of dogs-playing-in-snow likely snuck into your Facebook feed, we noticed a different, heartwarming trend. Our Facebook feed turned up several photos and notes about tireless USO volunteers and staffers at centers that were able to stay open taking care of stranded troops. Here’s a sampling:

From Liberty USO, which serves Philadelphia International Airport:

The USO of Metropolitan Washington-Baltimore was able to help stranded troops at Dulles International Airport thanks to three dedicated volunteers. (The center at Reagan National Airport stayed open overnight, too, hosting seven stranded troops):

And in Fort Drum, N.Y. – where the temperature was 8 below zero at noon today – the USO continued business as usual by welcoming home returning troops earlier this week:

Like what you see? You can help America’s troops, too, by donating to support USO centers and programs.

Hero Dog Makes Friends During USO Visit

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Teddy was obedient until the scraps started hitting the floor.

Even the most well-trained, well-intentioned golden retriever is going to try and snag a dropped piece of ham.

While troops and families likely came to the USO Warrior and Family Center on Fort Belvoir, Va., last Friday for the free lunch (courtesy of the USO of Metropolitan Washington), Teddy turned into the main attraction. The golden retriever is an ambassador for Hero Dogs, Inc., a Maryland-based nonprofit that trains and provides service dogs to wounded, ill and injured troops free of charge.

Teddy may not live with a service member – he has allergies, according to his trainer – but he had no problem sidling up to dozens of troops who streamed through the center’s dining room and sports lounge, craning his neck toward those who wanted to pet him or performing a trick on request.

–Photos by Eric Brandner, USO Director of Story Development

Volunteers Ready to Serve at New USO Warrior & Family Center

The largest USO Center ever built!

The largest USO Center ever built!

“Give the service member 100% of your attention.”  I wrote this down during today’s volunteer training at the new Fort Belvoir USO Warrior and Family Center.  Simple statement, HUGE impact.

I was attending training to better understand the new Center and all of its features, but in my head I kept circling back to that statement.  “100% of your attention.”  I was having a hard time devoting 100% of my attention to the training!  My virtual to-do list racing through my head:  Did that reporter email me back?…What is the deadline on that press release?…Expense reports are due!

Of course, for these volunteers, devoting time and attention to our nation’s troops and their families is second nature.  350 individuals signed up to volunteer at the new Warrior and Family Center in just a few short months, all before the Center is even open.  350 Washington, DC area residents.   Moms, dads, retirees, college students- all with one thing in common: a desire to support our nation’s men and women in uniform.

This new Center may be unique in size (the largest USO Center in history) and design (20 rooms with unique functions and purpose), but it shares something in common with our more than 160 USO locations around the globe- our volunteers will serve as the heart and soul of the Center.

From our active duty military who work patrols in the field during the day and spend their free evening volunteering in our Centers in Afghanistan and Kuwait, to the many military spouses who take time away from their own families to support those deployed troops serving in Europe and the Pacific regions, to the volunteers stateside who serve “no dough dinners” at USO Centers on military installations.  We also can’t forget the airport volunteers who greet traveling service men and women with hot coffee and a comfortable seat, and those volunteers that we hope to never meet, those who take the call, anytime, day or night, and support the families receiving their fallen soldier.

These individuals, thousands of them around the globe, are the life force of every USO Center.  They give 100% of their attention to our nation’s heroes.  I don’t know your names, but I know your passion.  You do what so many of us cannot, devote fully of yourself and your talents.  Thank you for your service. - Andrea Sok, USO Communications Manager

** See what volunteer opportunities are available near you at USOVolunteer.org! **

In-Kind Donors Provide Huge Benefit to USO Warrior and Family Center at Fort Belvoir

 

Building a house from scratch has a lot of hidden costs. Building a 20,000-square-foot home away from home for wounded, ill and injured troops and their caregivers takes a lot more than a weekend trip to Lowe’s.

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The golf simulator – donated by Full Swing Golf – has been one of the most popular attractions during previews of the USO Warrior and Family Center at Fort Belvoir, Va. USO Photo by Eric Brandner

The USO Warrior and Family Center – which held its grand opening Tuesday – cost more than $12 million to build. However, it would have been infinitely harder and costlier to assemble without in-kind donations from multiple companies, organizations and individuals.

“It’s so unique that we have varied donors,” USO of Metropolitan Washington Chief Operating Officer Cheryl Laaker Hall said. “For these companies to give us things that our their signature items, it means a lot for our organization.”

The following companies, listed alphabetically, made significant in-kind donations to the USO Warrior and Family Center at Fort Belvoir, Va.:

  • Activision: 16 video game titles
  • AMTICO International Inc.: 3,015 square feet of Urban Metal bronze vinyl tile
  • Bed Bath and Beyond, Inc.: Hundreds of items including appliances (toasters, vacuums, etc.) to kitchen cookware, utensils, place settings and towels
  • CISCO Systems, Inc.: Computer hardware, software and services totaling more than $110,000
  • Curt Kolcun: Microsoft Xbox consoles
  • Dow Chemical: 6,000 square feet of vegetative roofing insulation
  • EA Sports: 25 video game titles
  • Gull Swing Golf: A golf simulator valued at $50,000
  • Lafarge North America: Gypsum drywall
  • Microsoft: IT Academy software for technology education
  • Omnifics: Furniture storage
  • Petersen Aluminum Corporation: Metal roof panels
  • Robert Bost Associates: One lot of acoustic material for second floor areas including the music room
  • Roppe Flooring Products: Rubber stair treads, tile and nosings
  • Traveling Guitar Foundation: Guitars
  • The Valspar Corporation: 520 gallons of paint
  • Verizon Federal Inc.: Internal wiring and installation
  • Whirlpool Corporation: Maytag appliances for the kitchen (cooktop, dishwasher, refrigerators, etc.) and a washer and dryer

–Story by Eric Brandner, USO Director of Story Development

Princess Tea Party

Daughters of local metropolitan Washington D.C. service members became “princesses for a day” at a Princess Tea Party while their moms received some fashion and makeover tips, April 21, at USO-Metro‘s 2nd Annual Project Cinderella at Fort Meade, Maryland.

The girls learned how to be a lady and accessorized with tiaras, beads and rings before enjoying strawberries and apple juice while getting their nails done. — USO photos by Joseph Andrew Lee

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VFW Firefighter of the Year Recognized for USO Volunteerism

Recently named Price George's County VFW Firefighter of the Year, Nicole Orme, stands among troops at Ft. Meade during a USO Thanksgiving Dinner there.

She is a wife, a mother, a firefighter and fund raiser.

Don’t forget patriot and volunteer.

Nicole Orme doesn’t have any family or close friends in the military, but she feels giving back to those who sacrifice so much for us is just “the right thing to do.”

We agree. And so does the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

In fact, the VFW recently recognized Orme as Firefighter of the Year in Prince George’s County, Maryland, for volunteering at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and with the USO of Metropolitan Washington at Fort Meade.

“Orme has as a history of serving our fellow soldiers,” said the VFW in a press release. “She makes her family, Department, and community very proud.”

Last year Orme mobilized the Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Department and her local community to create and send military care packages to hundreds of troops serving overseas through her local USO. One soldier even took the time to write her back, thanking her and letting her know how much his whole unit appreciates the care packages.

“When he returned to the States, I had the opportunity to meet him in person,” said Orme. “He brought me back a flag that was flown above his post. I cherish that flag so much. Every time I see it, my heart is warmed knowing that I brought a smile to that soldier when he needed it most.”

She has made multiple visits to the fourth floor of the military hospital to present care packages to wounded warriors and their families, and she has worked extensively with the USO at Fort Meade, coordinating multiple dinners during Thanksgiving and Christmas, feeding hundreds of soldiers unable to go home for the holidays.

At an awards ceremony last month, each of the four VFW post commanders in Prince George’s County presented Orme with a separate certificate and monetary gift for her selfless contributions to our men and women in uniform.

“I am both humbled and grateful to be recognized for doing something I absolutely love,” said Orme. “I always wanted to say ‘thank you’ to our men and women in uniform, and the easiest way to do that was to get involved with the USO. The fact is, if people like us don’t do this, no one will.” – By Joseph Andrew Lee, USO Staff Writer