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

USO Metro’s One Million Milestone

The USO of Metropolitan Washington (USO Metro) has achieved a major accomplishment in its commitment to serve our troops. In December of 2011, USO Metro surpassed the one million mark for the number of troops they have supported in its airport centers.

USO Metro began taking care of America’s troops and their families at airports when it opened its first center inside Baltimore Washington International Airport (BWI) in 1999.

Volunteers work at the BWI airport center.

The timeline below shows in detail how the USO Metro airport services have expanded over the years.

USO Metro’s Airport Centers Timeline

  • 1999: BWI opens doors to USO Metro’s first airport center
  • 2001: Reagan National Airport (Reagan) center opens
  • 2005: Andrews Air Force Base opens an information desk
  • 2007: Washington Dulles International Airport (Dulles) center opens
  • 2010: Andrews Air Force Base airport center opens

According to USO Metro’s Airport Services Manager, Pam Horton, the 15,000-square-foot BWI center is both the largest and busiest center because of the Air Mobility Command (AMC) flights that many troops travel on through BWI. The other airport centers primarily serve troops who are flying on commercial flights.

Like all USO centers, the BWI center has many amenities geared to create a comfortable and home-like lounge for our troops. The facilities at BWI’s center include a concession filled with food and drinks, a sleeping room, children’s room, computer room, lounge with television and comfortable chairs, and Xbox games.

While BWI is the largest location, USO Metro’s achievement is a celebration for each airport center and USO Metro’s airport services program.

The number of guests at each airport center shows how each location has contributed to USO Metro’s grand total of 1,020,211 troops and family members served.

USO Metro Airport Centers’ Guests from 1998-2011

  • BWI = 762,797
  • Dulles = 129, 936
  • Reagan = 84, 567
  • Andrews AFB = 42, 911
  • Grand Total = 1, 020, 211

USO Metro Airport Centers’ Guests for 2011

  • BWI = 71, 313
  • Dulles = 30,302
  • Reagan = 21,777
  • Andrews AFB = 42, 911

Horton, who was first a USO Metro volunteer at BWI, says the milestone would not be possible without the support each airport center receives from its committed volunteers. The four airport centers currently have a total of 715 volunteers on file, all of whom are committed to at least two shifts each month.

Similar to USO centers around the world, USO Metro and its volunteers have remained dedicated to serving our troops, one by one.

Congratulations to USO Metro and your volunteers on touching over one million troops and family members! – Sarah Camille Hipp, Communications Specialist 

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Her 12 Kids Learn There’s Always Time to Give

Laurie, Tim, and nine of their twelve children!

When raising 12 children, there’s no such thing as extra time.

Laurie Leder will be the first to tell you.  She’s the busy, busy spouse of Army Staff Sergeant Tim Leder, stationed at Fort Belvoir, Va.  While she may not have a lot of spare time, she values community service so much that she and her whole family make time to volunteer with the USO.

Laurie started volunteering after she received a video in the mail from United Through Reading, a USO partner. When she put the disk in the player she saw her husband in his camouflage uniform, alone in a chair, reading bedtime stories to her kids from a base in Iraq. Tears streamed down her cheeks.

“Every single night the kids could put the disk in and listen to him read a story to them,” she said. “A lot of times people don’t realize how big something that small is, especially when you have little ones who wouldn’t otherwise remember him after being gone for a year.”

Her oldest is 20—too old for bedtime stories—but her youngest is only nine months. All of her kids are home schooled, and Lori encourages every one of them to join her in volunteering  at the USO as soon as they’re old enough.

“I feel like my family has gotten way more from the USO than I can ever hope to give back, so when it comes time to teach my children about community involvement and volunteering, the USO is at the top of my list.”

With so many USO programs and activities on and off base, every member of the Leder clan finds something to do. Laurie herself assists with stuffing care packages and hosts weekly coffee meetings for military spouses on base.

Her older teenagers help lift heavy crates of food at the farmers market, the 10- and 11-year-olds watch younger children during the morning coffees, and even her 8-year-old enjoys handing out popcorn and drinks to soldiers watching movies on the lawn.

“When you’re reaching out to other people, you realize that you have more than you think you do,” she said. “So it’s not extra time—it’s time well spent.” – Joseph A. Lee, USO Staff Writer

Project USO Elf Delivers Holiday Gifts to Enlisted Families

Army SSG Shafonda Gore literally jumped with joy the moment she was unexpectedly handed two iPod Touch devices last night a Fort Belvoir, Va., in addition to a pile of gifts specifically purchased for her two young boys.

Corporate sponsors Ratheon, Microsoft, and ATK donated 150 bicycles to military families during Project USO Elf, Dec. 15, 2011, at Ft. Belvoir, Va. Several volunteers from each corporation also came out to help assemble the bicycles and deliver gifts.

“Are you serious?” she said as she suspiciously looked back and forth over her shoulders.

“A gift from us, for your service,” said Ashley Vanarsdall Burke, vice president of communications for DynCorp International, as she delivered the two devices, together with chargers and cases to the 17-year veteran currently undergoing treatment for Traumatic Brain Injury and Post Traumatic Stress at Fort Belvoir.

Project USO Elf is a unique holiday gift program, run by USO of Metropolitan Washington, that matches wish lists from the children of junior enlisted, active duty families with local sponsors in the community, including corporations, organizations, families and individuals.

Employee volunteers from Raytheon, Microsoft, TASK, Inc., Lockheed Martin, ATK and The Boeing Company teamed up with the USO to build bicycles for 1,600 local military children, and last night, the finished bikes and other gifts were hand delivered to military families.

“This is such a great program,” said Burke, who enjoyed watching the reaction of unsuspecting parents when she added the iPod Touch devices to their haul. “To see the smile on their faces was just so rewarding. These families deserve all the help we can give to them right now, and I am so glad we could do any little thing to help during a tough time.

Ashley Vanarsdall Burke (right), vice president of communications for DynCorp International, adds an iPod Touch (one of 1,600 donated by DynCorp) to a pile of presents, fulfilling the holiday wish lists of junior enlisted troops at Fort Belvoir, Va

“Our company [DynCorp International] is 65 percent veterans, so anywhere we can reach back out to the military community and make a difference, we are there,” she added. When the USO called and told me how many children they had registered for the program, the stars must have been aligned, because at the same moment I had an overstock of exactly 1,600 iPod Touch devices. The USO is a great organization and programs like this are truly making an impact. We’re proud to be a part of it.”

Warren Stewart, program manager for military intelligence with Microsoft, helped build 50 bicycles last month at Fort Belvoir, and was also on hand last night to help with the heavy lifting.

“If building the bikes wasn’t rewarding enough, being here to personally give them to military families was over the top,” said Stewart. “I’m prior service myself, so giving back through the USO is a no-brainer. They’ve got my number, and I’m here to help with anything – anytime they call.”

Jodie Silverlock, an instructor with Lockheed Martin, has volunteered for years with her son, stuffing care packages with USO of Metropolitan Washington.

“Now he’s stationed in Afghanistan,” she said, “and we’re sending care packages to him,” said Silverlock. “Five years ago I would have never imagined, but here we are, and I’m so proud to volunteer for the USO.”

As holiday music echoed through the warehouse, cookies were passed around, and USO volunteers sorted through piles of red bags with smiles on their faces, individually calling out the names of families who had registered with the program.

“Holidays are especially important for military families who often experience extended separations,” said Elaine Rogers, president of the USO of Metropolitan Washington. “The continued generosity of the community makes it possible for USO-Metro to serve the troops and their families, and we are truly grateful for the support and generous donations from our corporate partners and individuals in our local community.” – Joseph Andrew Lee, USO Staff Writer

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It’s an Honor to Honor

Many veterans have never been to Washington, D.C. to see the memorials built in their honor, but today a group of World War II, Korean War and Vietnam War veterans will finally get their chance.

The Honor Flight Network is a non-profit organization that provides free transport to our WWII and terminally ill heroes to DC to visit and reflect at their memorials. In 2010 they helped more than 22,000 veterans realize their dream of visiting their memorial!Many USO employees had the great honor of greeting them as they arrived in our nation’s capital. Along with Girl Scouts, college students and travelers, there was thunderous cheering and clapping the 99 vets entered the airport. While the Alexandria Band at NOVA played, warm smiles, handshakes and hugs were doled out. Pamela Horton of Metropolitan Washington USO said, “Many tell how surprised and moved they are by the airport welcomes.  They don’t realize that they are thought of as heroes.”

As Will Rogers said, “We can’t all be heroes. Some of us have to stand on the curb and clap as they go by.” It was an honor just to be there and honor those who served us!

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Vyque Elessar, USO Director of New Media