Thank You for the Memory

Debbie Fink – co-author of “The Little C.H.A.M.P.S – Child Heroes Attached to Military Personnel“ is currently on a USO tour of the Pacific talking to children from military families. Here is a blog post about her trip:

Alas, all momentous memories must come to an “intermission” as they become – memories.

DSC00946 copyOur whirlwind, 26-event Little C.H.A.M.P.S (Child Heroes Attached to Military Personnel) USO Tour through mainland Japan and Okinawa, reaching 6,000+ Champs, is now settling into a monumental memory.

Thank you for the memory bound in classes filing in, singing  their song, “The Little Champs.”  Thank you to DoDEA’s music educators who took the time to teach it.

Thank you for the memory created as we exalted the Champs from each of the five branches, as the USO’s talented Cristin Perry led them singing their branch hymn while I roamed with my fiddle – getting close up and personal.  Each hymn was followed by everyone calling out in voice and American Sign Language (ASL):  “Go [NAVY] Champs!”

Thank you for the memory born as I shared the ‘backstory’ about the Little Champs’ book and song, followed by viewing  the Little Champs YouTube video, linking aural learning with visual learning: 

Thank you for the memory imbedded in reviewing a writer’s Six Golden Questions (Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How);  and answering the questions in our book.  Hats off to our 156 volunteers, dubbed the Golden Questioneers!

Thank you for the memory fixed in my retelling the story’s plot on one foot in the yoga tree pose in ~25 seconds!

Thank you for the memory steeped in introducing each of our book’s characters, branch by branch, giving the Champs ways to “connect” to each character.  Our USMC character Lo even got me cartwheeling again (26x) ~ now that’s quite a memory!

Thank you for the memory set as we addressed the challenge of being on-the-move as Champs, collectively conducting  research identifying the “mode” for the total number of moves made by our Champs thus far.  The overall mode was 3-4 times.  Our Champs became statisticians!

Thank you for the memory rooted as we dug deeper, addressing other challenges faced by Champs:  deployments, injuries/wounds, and homecomings (reintegration).  Thank you to the 234 “Emotioneers;” the Champs who held out the emotions discussed at each event, as we addressed the need to feel and deal with, and identify, our emotions.

Thank you for the memory as we highlighted that it is a Champ’s  right to ask for help; that communication and community are key; and that it is our responsibility, as trusted adults, to respond to their pleas for help.

Thank you for the memory implanted in our emphasis on how each Champs is special, and has a spark.  They loved watching my co-author/songwriter Jen Fink, who was beamed in from the University of Maryland, alongside her oversized bear, delivering her message of gratitude and our “Heart Smart A-B-C Song” (available on OperationChamps.org).

DSC00735Thank you for the memory placed in Champs “finding” their Heart Smart Magnifying Lens, and filling it with virtues – taught in ASL – that they’ve already ‘learned and earned,’ simply by being a Champ:  Worldliness; Honor; Loyalty; Patriotism; Communication and Community; Adaptability and Flexibility; and gobs of our Gratitude for all they do for America.

Thank you for the memory sharing some role playing about positive differences between civilian kids and Champs (e.g., Civilians say ‘Goodbye;’ Champs say ‘Farewell.’”)

Thank you for the memory – hearing ~36 shining singers lead their peers, singing The National Anthem.  The audience stood tall and proud, hands over hearts, reflecting upon how they and their families help keep America ‘the land of the free and the home of the brave’ as they sang.

Thank you for the memory – the soaring memories amidst the incredible memories – when we concluded each ‘edu-tainment’ event clapping and singing “The Little Champs” at the top of our lungs, dancing on the tips of our toes, and smiling from ear to ear.  The resounding cheer at the end, the “Go Champs!” – shouted and signed in ASL by all – reverberated ‘round the room, and reverberates in our hearts.

Thank you for the memory – seeing the Champs file out, class by class, with song in their hearts; dance in their steps; pride in their souls; virtues on their mind; and a Little Champs book awaiting their li’l hands.

Thank you for the memory that comes from working with such committed, compassionate, and competent staff and volunteers at both the USO and DoDEA.

With a heartfelt attitude of gratitude to all involved, and especially to our 6,000 shining Champs that currently reside in mainland Japan and Okinawa, I conclude with a quote from Bob Hope’s signature song, “Thank You for the Memory”:  Awfully glad I met you / Cheerio and toodle-oo / Thank you.

To close with “The Little Champs’” signature song, Goodbyes are not forever / Goodbyes are not the end / They simply mean we’ll miss you / Until we meet again!

I’m ready to make more memories!  Go Champs!  Go USO! – Debbie Fink, Author, Edutainer And USO Tour Vet

For more information on the tour, visit:  facebook.com/AuthorDebbieFink or OperationChamps.org

Helping in Healing: Grant from The Bob Woodruff Foundation Supports USO Efforts

During the time her husband, journalist Bob Woodruff, spent recovering from a roadside bomb blast that nearly killed him in Iraq, Lee Woodruff found moments of healing, quiet and temporary escape by gardening.

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USO President Sloan Gibson speaks with Anne Marie Dougherty, center, executive director of the Bob Woodruff Foundation, and Barbara Lau, the foundation’s charitable investment program director, on Feb. 5 at the grand opening of the USO Warrior and Family Center at Fort Belvoir, Va. USO photo by Mike Theiler

It’s no coincidence that recovering troops, their families and caregivers can seek their own peace of mind in the Healing Garden outside the new USO Warrior and Family Center at Fort Belvoir, Va.

The Bob Woodruff Foundation provided a generous grant to the USO to support education, employment training, rehabilitation and quality of life for our nation’s recovering heroes. The foundation also supported the Healing Garden, which will be in full bloom by spring. The garden will provide respite and tranquility for all who visit the center.

Walking from the building to the garden, visitors will read a message from the Bob Woodruff Foundation engraved along the path. Spaced out on the sidewalk will be the words Hope, Faith, Family and Resilience. The last part of the message will read: “Honoring the indomitable human spirit.”

“This is what we believe in. In keeping with what Bob and Lee envisioned for the Foundation, the Bob Woodruff Foundation seeks strategic partners that share a proven history of caring for the wounded and their families and the USO does just that,” said Anne Marie Dougherty, the executive director of the Bob Woodruff Foundation.

–Story by USO Publicaitons

What Our Troops Asked For

When you really need to get something done, you turn to the people you can count on. Time after time, you’ve been there when we’ve asked you to invest in critical projects supporting our troops. That’s why I’m turning to you now.

Here’s the situation: Our new USO Warrior and Family Center at Ft. Belvoir is now operational. That’s crucial because the road to recovery for our wounded troops can be physically and mentally challenging.

And part of the help we can provide is the opportunity now and then to visit a home away from home during their recovery where they can relax and relieve some stress. Can we count on you to help with some critical USO projects at the USO Warrior and Family Center including furnishing and supplying our new state-of-the-art Game Room?

Please, make your donation of $10 or more to help supply and furnish the new Game Room at the brand-new USO Warrior and Family Center at Ft. Belvoir.

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The Game Room in our new USO Warrior and Family Center at Ft. Belvoir is going to be something special — a state-of-the-art gamer’s dream. The latest and greatest video games — and all the technology to enjoy them to the fullest.

We’re installing eight 32-inch displays, video gaming chairs with built-in speakers and controls. With all of the technology provided our wounded troops and their families are guaranteed to not only have fun, but to also be helped along their path to their recovery through the therapeutic effects of positive stress relief.

And it’s impossible to think of a group of people more deserving of a chance to enjoy themselves and the comforts of home at our newest center.

Can we count you in on this special project? Click here to donate directly to the supplying and furnishing of the new Game Room at Fort Belvoir.

You’ve always been there for our troops. I hope you will step forward and support them once again with the care and commitment you’ve always shown. - Kelli Seely, Senior Vice President, Chief Development Office, USO

The USO’s Iraq Legacy: A Decade of Evolving Support for America’s Troops

This week marks the 10th anniversary of the United States’ invasion of Iraq.

While American forces have been out of that country for more than a year, the legacy of the war is still sorting itself out.

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USO photo

With the absence of a draft, the conflict pushed America’s all-volunteer force to bear its greatest burden to date, with multiple deployments becoming a large concern on the home front. While the death toll was comparatively low when pitted against previous American conflicts, the extent of the injuries – both mental and physical – were unlike anything the country had openly dealt with before.

But while warfare evolved, one thing didn’t change. Through the last decade, the USO was by the side of our troops on the battlefield and their families at home.

We were there providing millions of phone calls home.

We were there delivering the comforts of home to desert battlefields.

We were there with a video connection to the delivery room when babies were being born.

We were there when the dread of losing a loved one came into focus in the form of a temporary casket being transferred on the tarmac at Dover Air Base, Del.

And we were there when America’s heroes returned, hosting happy homecomings at airports for the majority of troops who made it back unscathed and providing programs for others to deal with the physical and invisible wounds of war. To better confront these issues facing wounded, ill and injured troops, the USO conceived and constructed two Warrior and Family Centers to help them and their families both recover and get on the right track to rewarding lives and new careers.

Thanks to the generous support of the American people, the USO was always by the side of our troops and families during the Iraq War. And we’ll continue to be there, wherever they go.

–Story by USO Story Development

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

Filling Their Needs: A Look Back at How the USO Warrior and Family Center at Fort Belvoir was Conceived

At the end of every journey, it’s always interesting to look back and see how you got there.

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The USO Warrior and Family Center at Fort Belvoir, Va., will officially open Feb. 5. USO photo by Eric Brandner

The USO ends a very small part of its Warrior and Family Care journey on Feb. 5, when it officially opens its first Warrior and Family Center. The Fort Belvoir, Va.-based center – the largest center the USO has ever constructed – will be a home away from home for wounded, ill and injured troops during their recoveries.

In most ways, the ribbon cutting will be a day of firsts. But there was a lot of analysis before the first shovel was stuck in the ground.

The USO and STUDIOS Architecture conducted extensive research in 2010 to develop a strategy for not just what the building would look like, but also what services it would offer. Here are three of those findings – and their resulting implementations. 

  • The 2010 Tell USO Survey asked wounded, ill and injured troops to rank a list of needs according to their level of importance. The item receiving the largest percentage of “very important” responses was access to “online college and professional development classes.” The USO responded by working with STUDIOS to design the Learning Center, a four-room setup inside the Warrior and Family Center that brings the connectivity and resources of a university library to their campus. Free computer and Internet access in the Classroom – along with an interactive white board and space for guest lecturers – should make taking a variety of online and in-person classes easy. The Study and Learning Center Office offer private spaces for interviews, career counseling or more intimate learning experiences. Meanwhile, the Learning Center Lounge provides open space for group activities.
  • Hundreds of thousands of troops who deployed to the Mideast since 2001 have returned suffering from varying degrees of post-traumatic stress. This can lead to anxiety issues, especially in crowded, public spaces. The architects at STUDIOS identified this as a potential problem early in the design process and addressed it by making large, open, multipurpose spaces. The Warrior and Family Center will be flooded with natural light through several windows, adding to the open feel. In correlation, the structure emphasizes natural elements like an exposed wood ceiling and a stone fireplace. The natural light and design features are the antithesis of the top two things Tell USO survey respondents didn’t want to see in the centers: artificial plants and florescent lights.
  • At the time of our initial research, four out of five wounded, ill and injured troops lived on or near the installation where they’re receiving treatment. However, at least two in five of those troops didn’t have easily accessible kitchens. Well, no one’s going to go hungry at the Warrior and Family Center. The sizable kitchen features around-the-clock access to snacks and beverages, along with a stout offering of staples and appliances to cook with. The handicap-accessible space will also host cooking classes for recovering troops and their caregivers who are looking not only for new dinner ideas, but also for tips on navigating the kitchen after a physical injury.

–Story by Eric Brandner, USO Director of Story Development