Special Delivery, Indeed: Air Force Spouse Leaves USO/What To Expect Baby Shower to Give Birth

Kylee Austin and Heidi Murkoff at the USO Special Delivery event, left, and then hours later at the hospital. Photos courtesy of the Austin family.

Kylee Austin and Heidi Murkoff at the USO Special Delivery event, left, and then hours later at the hospital with Kylee’s husband Air Force Capt. Josh Austin. Photos Copyright Candace Castor.

Heidi Murkoff said the room was beautiful — full of baby shower decorations and brimming with pregnant women.

Kylee Austin, an Air Force spouse and mom-to-be attending the baby shower at the Kadena Officers Club in Okinawa, Japan, had waited a year for the USO event to come back to the country after her friend raved about her experience at the 2014 edition.

“I thought my baby would come before the event and I was really sad I was going to miss out, but I figured I might register anyway just in case,” Austin said.

USO/What to Expect Special Delivery baby showers are a chance for new military moms and moms-to-be to bond with others in their community going through similar experiences, like being away from their family and coping with their spouse missing the birth of their son or daughter. The showers typically feature lunch, traditional baby shower games, supply giveaways and an intimate Q&A session with Murkoff, author of the “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” series.

But this wouldn’t be a typical baby shower.

Austin had gone to the doctor’s that morning and everything looked fine. She was enjoying the event with the other mothers and all of a sudden started having contractions. First seven minutes apart. Then six. Then five.

The USO volunteers were so worried for me, checking on me and offering to drive me to the hospital if necessary,” Austin said, “but I wanted to stick it out to hear what [Murkoff] had to say.”

Murkoff, familiar with pregnant mothers, noticed Austin pacing around the back of the room “looking very serious and talking on the phone.”

“She was doing a lot of belly clutching and holding her back,” Murkoff wrote in an email. “I thought — hmmm, that’s interesting. Sure enough, I found out during the book signing that she had been having contractions and another mama had taken her over to the hospital.”

The timing meant Kylee missed the opportunity to spend one-on-one time with Murkoff, but the USO made a point to bring Murkoff by hospital the next day to meet baby Tristan, who was born at 5:42 a.m. that morning.

House1

“It isn’t easy being pregnant under the best of circumstances — to do it while serving our country, far from the network of family and friends who usually help and support a mom-to-be through the journey — is exponentially harder,” Murkoff wrote. “To work with the USO to fill in some of those blanks for these mamas is an honor and an incredible opportunity. Plus I love the hugs and the baby cuddles.”

Murkoff says a special delivery during Special Delivery was bound to happen at some point. Still, this was a first for the program.

“The USO was just so sweet and supportive,” Austin said. “My favorite thing about being there was just getting to meet all the other ladies who were pregnant and getting the community support. It was such a neat experience for us and to tell our son in the future.”

True to military fashion, the Austins had their son Tristan while deployed and then less than two weeks later executed orders to return stateside, doing what military families do best.

“It was no surprise to us,” Austin said about receiving orders so soon, “but that’s why we have the USO there to help us out along the way. We take advantage of every center at every airport and that’s honestly what’s been getting us through.”

40 Years of Solutions: USO Okinawa’s Kina Much More Than an Electrician

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

By all accounts, Seifuku Kina embodies the spirit of the USO.

USO Okinawa’s jack-of-all-trades is marking his 40th anniversary with the organization this month. The celebrations started with an award presentation by USO President Sloan Gibson last week at USO Futenma and will culminate the last full week of July, when he’ll travel to each of Okinawa’s five centers for small celebrations in his honor.

Kina – who lost four uncles in World War II’s Battle of Okinawa – went to work for the U.S. Army as a contractor after the war ended to help support his parents and six younger siblings. He learned his technical skills through a combination of books, observation and trial and error. While working for the Army, Kina started helping out at the USO in his off hours, and was hired July 20, 1973 as a part-time employee. His electrical skills proved valuable, and his overall repertoire was of such high quality that the USO hired him as a full time technician in 1976.

Longevity and family are two significant themes in Kina’s life. He’s been married for 45 years and has four children and 10 grandchildren. Kina’s family also extends to the USO. He says he’s had other offers throughout the years, but felt his job with the organization always gave him a sense of both purpose and appreciation, which in turn made all of his hard work more enjoyable.

You can learn more about Kina in this December 2010 Your USO at Work profile.

–Story by USO Story Development

USO AMC Terminal at Kadena AFB Gets a Makeover!

The USO AMC Terminal lounge officially reopened with a ribbon cutting ceremony on September 20, 2010. (Photo by USO Okinawa)

During the month of September, our team at USO Okinawa worked hard to upgrade and renovate the USO AMC terminal at Kadena AFB with the special help of a few great volunteers who took charge to make it all happen.

This project was spearheaded by my wife Debbie Kolstad (wife of USO Regional Vice President for the Pacific Thomas Kolstad), volunteer coordinator Shirley Smiley and her husband Tom Smiley, and AMC Command Billy Fisher from DRMO.  They cleaned, sorted, scrubbed, painted, selected furnishings, and arranged and decorated with all of the new furniture.

It was truly a collaborative effort, with Air Mobility Command (AMC) helping to provide for the furniture and fixtures; the Air Force donating and installing carpet for the luggage room; donations of three appliances and a 42″ TV; and donated paint applied – along with wall decor –  by the volunteers.  The space was completed with 17 USO posters from the Arlington.  A huge thank you goes out to each and every volunteer who helped make this happen!

BEFORE: A fresh coat of paint was just one step of many during the three-week process of renovating the lounge! (Photo by USO Okinawa)

As reported by Airman 1st Class Maeson L. Elleman, 18th Wing Public Affairs, thousands of travelers pass through Kadena’s Air Mobility Command passenger terminal. The journey usually includes waiting hours on end before heading to their final destinations.

“It looks really nice, and it’s an inviting place,” Brig. Gen. Ken Wilsbach, 18th Wing commander said at the ribbon cutting ceremony Sep. 20. “In the past, maybe people wouldn’t have used it because it wasn’t as nice, but now it’s more inviting and more comfortable.  Volunteers put their hearts and souls into making it a nice place for Airmen and their families to rest.”

The USO has been a part on Okinawa for more than 50 years, providing servicemembers with an entourage of assistance and information to help ease the burdens of traveling.

“If you just pop in on a Space-A flight, and you end up spending a night, you don’t necessarily know where everything is, so it’s a great source of information,” stated General Wilsbach.

The terminal USO is open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Gardner Williams, manager of the AMC terminal and Gate 2 USOs, said people can volunteer to help the USO to keep it open longer or more days by going by either USO on base and filling out a volunteer form. People can also donate money or baked goods to either USO to support servicemembers and their families.

The refurbished main seating area features a flat-screen, high-definition TV with a surround-sound system and Blu-Ray player, several new leather couches, free wireless Internet, an Internet phone. (Photo by USO Okinawa)

Kids now have a special place to play and nap peacefully! (Photo by USO Okinawa)