USO Tour Veteran and Ravens Coach John Harbaugh Receives NFL Salute to Service Award

Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh is used to winning. He added another accolade to his resume earlier this month when he received the NFL Salute to Service Award.

Ravens coach John Harbaugh meets Army Gen. Ray Odierno (top) and mingles with troops during a 2009 USO Tour. USO photo

Ravens coach John Harbaugh meets Army Gen. Ray Odierno (top) and mingles with troops during a 2009 USO Tour. USO photo

The award – presented by USAA – is given to one member of the NFL community each year who goes above and beyond to support and honor America’s troops and veterans.

Harbaugh participated in the inaugural USO NFL Coaches Tour in 2009. He traveled to the Mideast that summer with Giants head coach Tom Coughlin, then-Titans head coach Jeff Fisher and former NFL head-coaches-turned-TV-personalities Bill Cowher and Jon Gruden.

“We do some great things in the National Football League, but to me the Salute to Service games are by far the most meaningful because the support goes to the right organizations,” Harbaugh told the USO in 2012. “The USO is one of these great organizations. What they do for troops is first class all the way. I feel like America is in good hands as long as these very special people keep making very special sacrifices to keep sane those who keep us safe.”

The USO has a long relationship with the NFL. The league gifted NFL Game Pass subscriptions to USO centers overseas this past season so troops serving abroad would still be able to watch their favorite teams on Sundays. That gift kept games streaming to service members during last fall’s government shutdown, when TV service to troops in Afghanistan was limited.

Birthday Buddies: USO and Facebook Keep Troops Connected Downrange

Troops use Facebook at a USO center in 2012. USO photo

Troops use Facebook at a USO center in 2012. USO photo

Today is the USO’s 73rd birthday. As we passed the cake around at our centers, we realized there’s another birthday relevant to the military community taking place.

Facebook turns 10 years old today. And while you may not see the connection right away, our troops surely get it each time they walk into a center downrange.

Jose, a veteran from San Diego was quoted in a New York Times story today saying Facebook and the USO provided him a connection to his family he couldn’t have made any other way while stationed across the globe:

I have spent the last 13 years serving my country but the separation from family is an aspect that I have never mastered. Facebook allows me to see my children grow up even when I have to be away for my duties. It keeps me from being totally cut off from my family even if I am thousands of miles away with no cellular service. It is a crucial tool for military members and keeps us connected like no other service other than the USO [United Service Organizations] has. Walk into a USO overseas and Facebook dominates the screens. It’s for good reason.

It’s moments like these that count for troops and their families. Happy birthday, Facebook.

USO Brings Super Bowl Festivities – and a National TV Cameo – to Troops Around the World

Troops attended USOs around the world last night to watch the big game. And even though this year’s Super Bowl was a blowout, they still had a great time. Take a look:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

USO Tour Veterans Peyton Manning, Champ Bailey and John Fox to Play Big Roles in Sunday’s Super Bowl

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The center of attention at this year’s Super Bowl was the center of attention for deployed troops just one year ago. Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning – who set NFL records for passing yards (5,477) and touchdowns (55) this season – will take on the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday night. Manning went on a USO Tour hosted by Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. James Winnefeld Jr., last February.

Manning kept a journal of his experience for ESPN, which featured this passage:

[I] experienced a true first in my life. I have thrown footballs in lots and lots of places. Boats, prisons, schools, military bases, hospitals, golf course fairways, malls, birthday parties, bar mitzvahs, Mardi Gras floats, French Quarter, etc., but I ain’t never thrown a football in an airplane. And I am not talking about little 3-yard lob passes. I was throwing 35-yard bullets to a guy who had the best hands on the entire USO tour, Senior Airman Stephen Gasperic. He was catching passes while trying to avoid falling over luggage, probably a couple of missiles back there as well for all I knew. He fell over a couple of times on some high throws, but he never dropped one. …

Manning will have a few USO tour veterans on the sidelines with him Sunday night, too.

Broncos starting cornerback Champ Bailey went on a USO tour last spring along with former Pro Bowl linebacker Von Miller. Miller tore his anterior cruciate ligament in December and won’t be able to play in Sunday’s game.

And the Broncos coach is a USO tour vet, too. John Fox went on a USO tour in 2010, back when he was the head coach of the Carolina Panthers.