Publishers Clearing House Prize Patrol Delivers $25,000 Check to the USO

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What would you do if the Publishers Clearing House Prize Patrol showed up on your doorstep?

Staff and volunteers at the USO Warrior and Family Center at Fort Belvoir, Va., were jumping for joy Wednesday after receiving a $25,000 check from the Publishers Clearing House recent Facebook promotion, The Give Back.

“We’re really grateful,” said USO Vice President of Operations Glenn Welling, who was presented the check by the Prize Patrol. “This was our first opportunity to get involved with the Publishers Clearing House Give Back promotion, and just to be able to be recognized by the Americans who went online each day is awesome. For 73 years the USO has been the connection between America and her military, and donations like this one will allow us to continue doing what we are do for another 73 years.”

This year’s The Give Back event featured three charities: the USO, ASPCA and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Fans were allowed to vote for their favorite charity once per day, with the charities earning prizes based on where they finished in the voting.

“We love being able to give back to the charities our customers care about,” said Danielle Bertellotti, assistant manager for digital marketing development at Publishers Clearing House. “Our audience has been very vocal on social media, and they have made it clear that the USO is a charity they care deeply about, so we are very happy to give.”

After voting to support their favorite charities, visitors to the Publishers Clearing House Facebook page also had the opportunity to win cash for themselves. Each vote cast for a charity also served as an entry into both a SuperPrize and the Give Back Exclusive Prize.

“It was something so simple … but it gave people the chance to make a difference for a cause they love,” Bertellotti said. Maybe they don’t have the money to give; maybe they aren’t in a place where they could volunteer; but this was a way they could help out the USO from wherever they are.”

NBC’s Al Roker Going on USO Tour in 2014

Al Roker

Al Roker

Beloved celebrity weatherman Al Roker announced Tuesday morning that he’ll go on a USO Tour in 2014 as part NBC’s Today Show’s Shine A Light series.

The NBC series is a year-long initiative by the show focusing on service and giving back to communities in need.

From the Today.com:

Al’s goal is to join a USO tour, helping to bring a little bit of America to our troops stationed all around the world.

“A few years ago I went to Afghanistan … You see it on TV, but nothing can prepare you for what these men and women are dealing with,” Al said. “We still have a lot of American troops in harm’s way, and I want them to know that they’re remembered.”

Dates and locations for Roker’s tour are still to be determined.

Roker officially joined the Today Show in 1996 and also hosts Waking Up With Al on The Weather Channel.

Last month, NBC highlighted the USO Christmas Convoy, which hit 50 remote locations in Southwest Asia to bring cheer and gifts to American troops who couldn’t make it home for the holidays to be with their families.

Vice President Joe Biden Stops by USO-Hosted Picnic in South Korea

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Vice President Joe Biden – at the end of a diplomatic trip to Asia – dropped by Yongsan Garrison, South Korea, last weekend for a visit with service members. And despite the short notice, the USO was able to pull off a memorable meet-and-greet for hundreds of troops and their families.

“A highlight of the event was when [Biden] invited all the children to come up on stage to join him for his remarks,” USO Korea Area Director Tony Davis wrote in an email recap of the event. “Most of the kids had USO teddy bears tucked in their arms!”

The USO put on a picnic for nearly 500 troops and family members. The Eighth Army Band entertained the crowd while children had access to bouncy castles and a host of games. After speaking, Biden took time to mingle and pose for pictures with several attendees.

Photos: USO Volunteer who Won Contest Receives 2014 Jeep Wrangler

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Two months after winning an online contest, USO volunteer Norm Hallowell watched as Pam Horton – manager of the USO Warrior and Family Center at Fort Belvoir, Va. – pulled his new Jeep Wrangler up to the curb.

Hallowell stood in front of the recently opened center Friday afternoon with a small group of USO staff and volunteers and received the keys to his new Jeep from USO of Metropolitan Washington-Baltimore Chief Operating Officer Cheryl Laaker Hall.

The contest was part of the USO’s ongoing relationship with Jeep, which include’s the automaker’s  Operation Safe Return initiative.

Liberty USO, Phillies Provide Surprise Holiday Moment for Two Recently Deployed Troops

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Chief Warrant Officer 2 Eileen Smith’s eyes filled with tears. Capt. Bud Evans shared a long embrace with his son. No matter where you looked, one thing was clear: Liberty USO had created another USO Moment.

The Phillie Phanatic – in his Phanta Claus outfit – handed holiday stockings to two service members who recently returned from Afghanistan on Wednesday at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia. In each stocking was a free trip to Philadelphia Phillies spring training in Clearwater, Fla., including US Airways travel vouchers, hotel accommodations, an informal meet-and-greet with Phillies players and first pitch honors at a game. (Check out video of the event here.)

In addition to the surprise, Phillies personnel, Liberty USO staff and board members and host John Brazer assembled the final Operation Stocking Stuffer (OSS) care packages, which will go to troops serving overseas. The OSS shipments will bring USO Liberty’s care package total to more than 5,000 in 2013.

The Power of a Phone Call Home from the Battlefield

Alexander Carpenter with his daughter, Chloe, shortly after his third and final deployment as a Marine. Photo courtesy of Alexander Carpenter

Alexander Carpenter with his daughter Chloe shortly after his third deployment as a Marine. Photo courtesy of Alexander Carpenter

Six years ago today, then-Marine Alexander Carpenter was going on long patrols in Iraq in the aftermath of the bloody Battle of Ramadi. But the dangerous fighting he and his fellow Marines encountered wasn’t the only stressful situation on his mind.

In this edited email to the USO, Carpenter recalls a phone call made from a USO in December 2006 that changed his life:

I got back from a 12-day-out rotation. It was close to midnight in Ramadi. Our staff sergeant told us to clean our weapons and then we could shower, eat and have some time off. I cleaned my [weapon] so fast … because, my baby girl was to be born that day. I frantically cleaned my [weapon] and got a buddy to go the USO call center with me. (I skipped the chow and skipped the shower.) I called three or four different people and no one answered. I was so scared, I didn’t want to go back out without hearing my baby girl’s cry. Finally, I call one more time and I get an answer. She has been born!!! Ten fingers, 10 toes, healthy and kicking! … I shouted “I’M A DAD!” No one said shut up. No one told me to be quiet. But [the others in the USO] clapped and congratulated me. Tears streamed down my face. I spent six more months of patrols and firefights with my brothers by my side. I came back to the USO every 12 days to call home to hear my daughter. I made it home and saw my baby for the first time May 26, 2007 (she was born Dec. 2006).

I fought from that first phone call on not for oil, not for WMDs, not for Bush: I fought for my brothers to my left and right so we could all see our babies. The USO made that call possible for me. And to this day I have never said thank you. … Thank you USO.

Troops deployed across the globe rely on free calls home from USO centers to celebrate the seminal moments of their lives, connect with family members or just let people back in the States know they’re doing OK. Find out how you can help keep these phone calls free for America’s troops here.