A Holiday Gift Guide for Our Troops

DOD photo

The holidays are here.

If you didn’t see them coming it before this week, a pile of mail with circulars and glossy catalogs probably brought them into focus. By Thanksgiving night, your inbox will be as stuffed with email sales pitches aimed to get you to do a little Christmas shopping while you’re riding out that turkey coma.

And while we think everyone should treat themselves to that new coat or gadget if they can, we do have one more holiday shopping suggestion. There’s a group of folks out there who protect our freedoms who can’t just decide to buy a plane ticket online and come home for the holidays. And for a little cash, you can give them a gift that can significantly benefit their lives.

Keeping Families Connected

The USO is a home away from home for deployed troops. But what gets lost in that phrase is the connection those troops get back to their families through our centers. Check out this video about a North Carolina couple who connected just in time for one of life’s most precious moments. This holiday season, it’s easy to support the USO’s efforts to keep troops downrange connected with phone calls home or online video connections back home from war zones.

Homecomings

The USO is also there for spouses back at home during deployment. Here is a story of how one spouse — who is also a USO volunteer — coped during her husband’s deployment in part by tapping into the USO community on Fort Drum, New York.

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USO2GO

Not every service member in the field has access to the basics, much less amenities to pass the time. That’s where USO2GO comes in. Service members like Army 1st Lt. Ben Lyman contact the USO directly from their forward operating base or combat outpost and put in an order to receive customized shipments of everything from furniture to snacks to sports equipment, TVs and even video games. You can donate toward great services like that here, or sponsor an entire shipment via USO Wishbook.

Families of the Fallen

Everyone reacts differently when the unthinkable happens. London Bell’s brother — Marine Staff. Sgt. Vincent Bell — died in Afghanistan in 2011. She was heading into what she thought would be a difficult holiday season in 2013 when the USO called, offering her a USO/TAPS getaway to New York City where she could bond with others who’d lost family a military family member.

“I started out on the journey as a lone traveler, but I left meeting several people who were really just like me,” Bell said. “It was a good way for me to bond.” It’s one of several ways the USO helps military families when they need us most.

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

Special Delivery!

The USO is preparing our next big USO2GO shipment. It weighs a ton — literally.

That’s because it’s filled with the comforts of home — items that can help our troops transform remote forward operating bases in Afghanistan into a place where they can organize a pick-up football game, play guitar, or just relax in a beanbag chair.

We need your help to make this delivery possible. And, when you send a gift, we’ll add your name to a huge “thank you” banner that will be included in the shipment.

Help send a special USO2GO shipment and we’ll include your name on a banner so our troops know how much you appreciate their service.


The USO2GO shipment we’re putting together is more than a collection of items our troops can really use. It’s also a huge “thank you” from a grateful nation.

And this time, you can play a personal role in delivering that thanks by adding your name to our USO banner included in the shipment.

Imagine how our troops will feel when they unpack the boxes to find your name and the names of thousands of other USO supporters on a banner letting them know their country is standing proudly behind them.

And every day, as they enjoy some of the comforts of home you’ve helped provide in this USO2GO shipment, they’ll see your name and know there are people out there caring for them, supporting them and honoring their service.

Give our troops a one-of-a-kind USO2GO shipment and we’ll add your name to a banner that will be included in the shipment.

I know how strongly you stand by our troops and I hope you’ll take part in this great campaign today.

Thanks for all you do,

Kelli Seely, Senior Vice President, Chief Development Officer, USO

Bringing Comfort to Those Saving Lives in Afghanistan

Optimal levels of comfort achieved!

At a remote forward operating base in Afghanistan, a small team of medical officers, surgeons, nurses and corpsman stand in harm’s way, always at the ready to save the lives of our frontline troops

They live as close to the action as possible. It’s a life of hurry up and wait. But with few luxuries available in a combat zone, they pass the time sitting on tires, playing cards and eating MRE’s.

True to our mission, the USO recently provided much needed furniture, toiletries, energy drinks and entertainment to lift the spirits of the 629th Forward Surgical Team at FOB Orgun-E, on the eastern border of Afghanistan. The unit received a USO2GO shipment which included coffee makers, video games, bean bag chairs and more, bringing them a much-needed touch of home.

“We can’t thank the USO enough,” said Army Capt. Phyllis Thieken of the 629th FST. “We are a team of medics, doctors, CRNAs [Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists] and nurses who are devoted to taking care of the wounded, and it makes me feel good to know that with the help of the USO, we are able to help other soldiers here on the FOB.”

The medical team is using the care package to further pay it forward to Special Operators passing through their base.

“Some come here just to get a shower after being out on missions,” she added. “By supplying simple packets of Gatorade to these guys who have been eating MREs, we get such a good feeling. Their faces light up over Gatorade!”

“Little things like furniture—comfortable places to sit—are often taken for granted out here. Most every piece of furniture is hand built from scrap wood and sleeping mats. Outside we were sitting on tires, so with the folding chairs and bean-bag chairs you gave us, we’re now able to actually sit and be comfortable, especially when we have meetings or training as a group. It’s made a huge difference in our everyday lives.”

Right now the unit is engaged in a fierce Call of Duty tournament on the X-Box 360. The combat shooter has been a constant source of rivalry within the unit and gives them something to look forward to each day.

“That X-Box is hands down the most coveted piece of equipment in that box,” said Thieken. “If that thing broke we would have a riot on our hands. It’s our number one source of entertainment, and it really helps us pass the time.” –  Joseph Andrew Lee, USO Staff Writer

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Photos from the Field – September 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 panoramic shot of the recently built center at USO Fort Riley. What a view! (Photo by Virginia Hagin of HaginPhotography)

A group of Marines serving in Afghanistan enjoy some comforts of home courtesy of their USO2Go kits. (Photo by their Command Chaplain)

Flyover in formation as part of Korean Air Force training for Armed Forces Day. (Photo courtesy of USO Korea Facebook page)

Morning rising above Sather Air Base, home of the USO Baghdad. (USO photo by Richard McCarty, via USO Baghdad Facebook page)