5 Things You Can Do to Thank America’s Troops on Armed Forces Day

DOD photo

Department of Defense photo

Saturday is Armed Forces Day, making it the perfect day to show your support for America’s troops stationed around the world. Here are five ways to show your thanks to America’s troops and their families:

1. Thank a service member: Whether you see someone in uniform traveling through the airport or know one of your neighbors is in the National Guard, take a moment to thank them for their service.

2. Sign the USO flag online: This is perhaps the easiest-to-achieve entry on the list. Just go to USOmoments.org and sign the flag. You’ll get to show our troops your appreciation and help the USO break a Guinness World Record.

3. Share your thanks on social media: The USO has 30,000 interactions with troops every day at our 160-plus centers around the globe. But while we’re making them feel home away from home in person, you can let them know how you feel about them by tweeting or Facebooking your message and then adding the hashtag #USOmoments at the end. And don’t forget to follow the USO on Twitter and like us on Facebook.

4. Head to a Major League game in one of these four cities: The USO will have a significant presence at ballparks around the country on Saturday. If you’re going to a game in Chicago (Cubs), Cleveland, Houston or Washington, take a walk to find the USO booth and sign a piece of the Every Moment Counts flag. Then, take a photo of yourself near the flag table and put it on Twitter or Instagram with the #USOmoments hashtag. We’ll pick one winner next week to send an Every Moment Counts T-shirt.

5. And if you’re in North Carolina … : You can celebrate all day in the Tar Heel state, as Gov. Pat McCrory issued an official citation proclaiming May 17 as Armed Forces Day to celebrate the state’s 800,000 veterans and 132,000 uniformed personnel:

N.C. Proclamation Armed Forces Day

USO on TV: Skype Connections Downrange Keep Families Together

photo“He wasn’t there when she was born, and, almost two months later for him to hold her, she knew his voice.” Those are the words of Brittany Ellridge, wife of Spec. Najee Ellridge, who watched their daughter Nyla’s birth over a USO-provided Skype connection in Afghanistan. The Nov. 10 edition of the CBS Evening News featured a story on how American troops serving across the globe stay in touch with their families back home.

CBS also profiled Allison Simerly, who spoke at a USO/With You All The Way symposium on military kids and post-deployment issues at the USO Warrior and Family Center at Fort Belvoir, Va., back in April. Simerly, and her father – Army Col. Mark Simerly – keep in touch via online video chats.

The CBS story also featured file footage of Senior Airman Gabriel Time, who had this emotional reaction to watching his child being born via a Skype connection at USO Kandahar in Afghanistan in 2011.

USO Salutes Heroes with Tailgate for the Troops in Tampa

Airmen from MacDill Air Force Base

Airmen from MacDill Air Force Base enjoy food and drinks at the USO’s Tailgate for the Troops on Veterans Day in Tampa, Fla. (Photo by Chad Stewart / USO)

Each year Veterans Day offers an opportunity to honor all members of the military – past and present – for their selfless dedication and loyalty to their country.

It’s also an occasion to celebrate their service and have some fun.

This year, to thank service members, the USO threw a huge tailgate party in Tampa, Fla., for troops and their families before the hometown Buccaneers’ Monday Night Football matchup against the Miami Dolphins. USO Tampa Bay, with help from the Bucs and Jeep, provided food, drinks, entertainment, T-shirts and free game tickets to hundreds of troops.

The tailgate, part the USO’s Every Moment Counts campaign, gave service members a chance to relax and have some fun before heading into the stadium to cheer on their team.

Inside Raymond James Stadium, the Buccaneers were the big winners on Monday night. But it was a different story outside the stadium, where members of the military were the stars of the show.

The USO Show Troupe flew in from New York to entertain the crowd and a Mobile USO trekked all the way from Virginia to add to the festivities. It was an occasion to celebrate the military and give thanks, and more than a dozen volunteers from Jeep joined in to help serve troops.

Retired Marine Gunnery Sgt. Michael Rovinelli, executive director of USO Tampa Bay, was on hand to witness the festivities firsthand.

“Veterans Day is awesome. For me, it’s double fun,” he said. “I get to remember when I was in and I know what these troops and their families go through on a daily basis. It makes it so easy to do my job because I have that instant connection.”

With 23 years of service under his belt, Air Force Command Chief Master Sgt. Tommy Mazzone has had a long relationship with the USO.  He knows the work the USO does for troops around the world and he’s trying to get the message out to younger service members.

“[Troops] get to see something like this [tailgate] on a grand scale. But, if anything, what they’ll remember is the USO did this,” he said. “And then when they walk past a USO in an airport and they step in, maybe it takes them a step further and maybe they’ll want to volunteer. … If we can keep that circle of life going, that’s exactly what will make the USO continue to be successful.”

NASCAR, USO Brings an Airman Back to His Family in Style

Technical Sgt. Chad Boley has been stationed at Ramstein Air Base in Germany for three and a half years, flying wounded soldiers from the Southwest Asia theater to either Germany or stateside. During that stretch, Boley has been separated from his family for the past two years. So when the chance came to surprise them with a visit, he seized it.

That opportunity was provided by the USO and NASCAR on Sunday, where Boley would be reunited with his wife, Stephanie and his family of two boys, Austin and Cameron, and two girls, Gwendolyn and Noelle and at the AdvoCare 500 at Phoenix International Raceway.

“To be able to reconnect with my family will mean the world to me,” Boley wrote prior to the event. “I have for so long done everything to do my country proud and bring hope to families whom have injured soldiers, that I have partially neglected my own. With this opportunity to see them again just makes the value of family that much stronger and more clear.”

Boley was treated to a day at the track for a real “behind the scenes” NASCAR experience. He blasted around the track in a pace car, toured the ESPN on-site compound, attended the driver meeting and went shopping for NASCAR memorabilia for his kids, all signed by the drivers. Later, Boley dropped the green flag to signal the start of the race.

His family received a similar experience and got to take photos with all the drivers including Danica Patrick and several USO tour veteran drivers.