Celebrate Valentine’s Day With These Five Huggable USO Moments

In the spirit of Valentine’s Day and making memories for military families, here’s a look at five of the most huggable USO moments from the past year.

1. Americans Around the World Send USO Love Notes to Troops

In the past two years during the weeks leading up to Valentine’s Day, the USO has asked people at home and overseas to send love notes to troops and their families. People all around the globe embraced the challenge and sent in 3,713 notes of love and affection to troops between January and March of last year.

2. USO and NASCAR Help a Soldier Surprise His Family on Father’s Day

Sgt. Sean Brady, center, is reunited with wife Lauren, right, son Sean and daughter Sarah prior to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Quicken Loans 400 at Michigan International Speedway.  (Photos by Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images)

Sgt. Sean Brady, center, is reunited with wife Lauren, right, son Sean and daughter Sarah prior to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Quicken Loans 400 at Michigan International Speedway. Photo by Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images

Not even a made-for-TV movie writer could dream up a military homecoming this special.

Last June, the USO and NASCAR teamed up to pull off the ultimate homecoming for Sgt. Sean Brady and his family, reuniting them on the pit road on Father’s Day before the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Quicken Loans 400 at Michigan International Speedway.

But that’s not all.

In the spirit of making moments count, the USO turned the tables on Brady and gave him a Father’s Day surprise, too. Check out the video to see what happened:

 

 

3. A Happy Ending: USO Steps in to Make a Wedding Happen for a Young Military Couple

The unpredictable military lifestyle can making planning big life moments, like weddings, a little difficult.

This was the case for Pvt. Chase Howard and his then-fiancee, Brittany, who had been trying to find a date to tie the knot for months. So when a Chase received a four-day pass over Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend last year, the couple finally had the perfect opportunity to say ‘I do.’

The only problems were that the couple only had a week to plan the ceremony and had no nearby family to help make the arrangements. That’s when Howard called his mother, who got in touch with the USO.

With some quick planning and a few good Skype connections — one with Chase’s father in Afghanistan and another with Brittany’s parents at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington — the Howards had a day to remember at the USO Warrior and Family Center in Fort Belvoir, Virginia.

4. USO Sets Up Surprise Homecoming for a Soldier’s Family on “The Meredith Vieira Show”

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Every service member deserves a special homecoming.

But for Lt. Beau McNeff and his wife Ceci, who had missed their last two wedding anniversaries due to deployments and work-ups, something a bit more extravagant seemed to be in order.

The USO, which benefitted from more than 250 hours of McNeff’s volunteer service while he was stationed at Forward Operating Base Fenty in Afghanistan, selected the McNeff family for a surprise reunion on “The Meredith Vieira Show” and also arranged three days of fun for the family in Manhattan. Read more about the homecoming here.

5. A Perfect Proposal: USO San Antonio Helps an Army Private Pop the Question (Again)

Volunteers hold up signs during the surprise proposal at USO San Antonio. USO photo

Volunteers hold up signs during the surprise proposal at USO San Antonio. USO photo

When most girls dream about their perfect proposal, they imagine their future husband down on one knee — not a long-distance call from a boyfriend hundreds of miles away.

Unfortunately for Pvt. Zoe Tunchez and Pvt. Emmanuel Aleman, who were stationed at different Army bases, a happy phone conversation seemed like the closest to a fairy-tale proposal they would get.

That is, until Aleman, his mother, Marita Maldonado, and the team at USO San Antonio joined up to give Tunchez the surprise proper’ proposal of a lifetime just hours before the wedding ceremony. Read more about the couple’s magical USO moment here.

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

VolBlog_SanAntonioVolBreakfast

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

Photos from the Field – October 2010

Periodically, we’re bringing you the best in USO photography from around the world.  Enjoy this latest installment of our photo essays!

(P.S. – if you know any of the photographers of images that don’t credit one, please let us know!)

A young man waits on the pier for the arrival of his father. USS MCCAMPBELL (DDG 85) was deployed for nearly 90 days. (USO photo by Jason Rouse)

At USO Fort Drum's recent Boogie With Your Boots On, the "bull" takes a rest in between riders. (Photo courtesy USO Fort Drum Facebook page)

Wounded warrior Joel Tavares (left) and his dad, Jose (right), joined USO San Antonio Center Director Shari Jenson (center) at the downtown USO. The staff had this to say: "What an honor!!" (Photo courtesy of USO San Antonio Facebook page)

"When they are called, We are there," by Cindy Testerink. This original was auctioned off at the 2010 USO of North Carolina gala, but was donated back to the RDU center and will hang proudly on its walls. (Photo courtesy USO-N.C. Facebook page)

Renovation and Expansion for USO San Antonio

The USO Center at the San Antonio International Airport has recently completely a renovation and expansion process!  At 5,100 square feet, the center certainly lives up to the motto that “Everything’s Bigger in Texas.”  With room for a computer center, a theater, snack bar, television, pool tables, gaming rooms, and a space set aside just for kids, there’s something for everyone.

San Antonio, TX, is located at a nexus of Troop activity, with Fort Sam Houston, Lackland Air Force Base, Brooks City-Base, and Brooke Army Medical Center.  Because of their proximity to BAMC, the center will also feature activities and entertainment designed specifically for wounded Troops.

We’re thrilled to expand the services and space available at USO San Antonio and invite Troops and their families to stop by and see is on their way through the airport! Check out some pics from yesterday’s Grand Reopening festivities…

USO San Antonio Center Director, Shari Jenson (center), joins to Brig. Gen. Leonard A. Patrick, Commander, 502nd Air Base Wing, Fort Sam Houston, Texas (far L); Sloan Gibson, USO president; Edward Reilly, USO Board of Governors Chair at the USO San Antonio Grand Re-Opening celebration on April 7, 2010. (USO Photo by PhotoFino)

Local service members join Shari Jenson, USO San Antonio Center Director (center); William Moll, former Chair of the USO Board of Governors (far L); and Sloan Gibson, USO president (far R) as they hold up Nintendo® Wii™ and Xbox® 360 games donated by Activision. (USO Photo by PhotoFino)

Brig. Gen. Leonard A. Patrick, Commander, 502nd Air Base Wing, Fort Sam Houston, Texas, greets the crowd outside of the USO San Antonio building in downtown San Antonio during the center's re-opening celebration on April 7, 2010. (USO Photo by Photo Fino)

USO San Antonio Center Director Shari Jenson does an interview for a local news station at the center's re-opening celebration on April 7, 2010. (USO Photo by PhotoFino)

USO San Antonio's new center is a 5,100 square foot facility that features a computer area with free Internet access; theater room; lounge area with televisions, recliners, Xbox® 360 stations, and two pool tables; a children’s room; United Through Reading® Military Program recording area; and a fully stocked snack bar with ice cream stations. Center visitors also have access to four gaming rooms with multiple Nintendo® Wii™ and more Xbox® 360 gaming consoles. (USO Photo by PhotoFino)