Celebrate Valentine’s Day With These Five Huggable USO Moments

In the spirit of Valentine’s Day and making memories for military families, here’s a look at five of the most huggable USO moments from the past year.

1. Americans Around the World Send USO Love Notes to Troops

In the past two years during the weeks leading up to Valentine’s Day, the USO has asked people at home and overseas to send love notes to troops and their families. People all around the globe embraced the challenge and sent in 3,713 notes of love and affection to troops between January and March of last year.

2. USO and NASCAR Help a Soldier Surprise His Family on Father’s Day

Sgt. Sean Brady, center, is reunited with wife Lauren, right, son Sean and daughter Sarah prior to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Quicken Loans 400 at Michigan International Speedway.  (Photos by Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images)

Sgt. Sean Brady, center, is reunited with wife Lauren, right, son Sean and daughter Sarah prior to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Quicken Loans 400 at Michigan International Speedway. Photo by Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images

Not even a made-for-TV movie writer could dream up a military homecoming this special.

Last June, the USO and NASCAR teamed up to pull off the ultimate homecoming for Sgt. Sean Brady and his family, reuniting them on the pit road on Father’s Day before the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Quicken Loans 400 at Michigan International Speedway.

But that’s not all.

In the spirit of making moments count, the USO turned the tables on Brady and gave him a Father’s Day surprise, too. Check out the video to see what happened:

 

 

3. A Happy Ending: USO Steps in to Make a Wedding Happen for a Young Military Couple

The unpredictable military lifestyle can making planning big life moments, like weddings, a little difficult.

This was the case for Pvt. Chase Howard and his then-fiancee, Brittany, who had been trying to find a date to tie the knot for months. So when a Chase received a four-day pass over Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend last year, the couple finally had the perfect opportunity to say ‘I do.’

The only problems were that the couple only had a week to plan the ceremony and had no nearby family to help make the arrangements. That’s when Howard called his mother, who got in touch with the USO.

With some quick planning and a few good Skype connections — one with Chase’s father in Afghanistan and another with Brittany’s parents at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington — the Howards had a day to remember at the USO Warrior and Family Center in Fort Belvoir, Virginia.

4. USO Sets Up Surprise Homecoming for a Soldier’s Family on “The Meredith Vieira Show”

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Every service member deserves a special homecoming.

But for Lt. Beau McNeff and his wife Ceci, who had missed their last two wedding anniversaries due to deployments and work-ups, something a bit more extravagant seemed to be in order.

The USO, which benefitted from more than 250 hours of McNeff’s volunteer service while he was stationed at Forward Operating Base Fenty in Afghanistan, selected the McNeff family for a surprise reunion on “The Meredith Vieira Show” and also arranged three days of fun for the family in Manhattan. Read more about the homecoming here.

5. A Perfect Proposal: USO San Antonio Helps an Army Private Pop the Question (Again)

Volunteers hold up signs during the surprise proposal at USO San Antonio. USO photo

Volunteers hold up signs during the surprise proposal at USO San Antonio. USO photo

When most girls dream about their perfect proposal, they imagine their future husband down on one knee — not a long-distance call from a boyfriend hundreds of miles away.

Unfortunately for Pvt. Zoe Tunchez and Pvt. Emmanuel Aleman, who were stationed at different Army bases, a happy phone conversation seemed like the closest to a fairy-tale proposal they would get.

That is, until Aleman, his mother, Marita Maldonado, and the team at USO San Antonio joined up to give Tunchez the surprise proper’ proposal of a lifetime just hours before the wedding ceremony. Read more about the couple’s magical USO moment here.

How the USO, Joining Forces and FTD are Bringing Valentine’s Day Moments to the Military

A soldier holds up a sign at USO Colorado Springs. USO photo

A soldier holds up a sign at USO Colorado Springs. USO photo

Many Amercan troops will be thousands of miles away from their loved ones this Valentine’s Day. With this in mind, the USO, Joining Forces and FTD are teaming to show these military families how much we appreciate their sacrifices.

As part of the USO’s Every Moment Counts campaign, USO centers across the United States are receiving a floral arrangement, courtesy of FTD, as a symbol of our nation’s love and enduring support. Every American can add their voice to this display of support, too, by going on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram this weekend and using the #USOmoments hashtag to send messages to America’s troops and their families.

The USO is also inviting Americans to send USO Love Notes to our troops by visiting the USO’s Love from America site. Visitors to the site can also learn about the challenges troops and their families face and what they as civilians can do to help.

Too often, troops miss out on family dinners, date nights, birthdays and the even the births their children. With this in mind, the USO created the Every Moment Counts campaign to rally Americans to show their gratitude by helping the USO create priceless moments for our troops and their families.

“The USO is proud of its collaboration with Joining Forces and FTD, and this synergy shows our troops how much we care wherever they may be serving,” said J.D. Crouch, CEO & President of the USO. “We want the 30,000 troops and military family members who pass through our doors each day to feel closer to home and know that we are always by their side, especially on this Valentine’s Day.”

What the Troops Love

Screen Shot 2013-02-12 at 10.24.14 AMOur troops love to visit a USO center filled with the comforts of home. This Valentine’s Day, give a gift that keeps giving and shop the USO Wishbook!

Our service members give so much without asking for anything in return. But we know how much they appreciate the little things, like their favorite snack food or the chance to call home. Help the USO make that happen today!

In the Name of Love, USO of Illinois Connects Military Couples

Long deployments away from home can put a strain on military marriages.

To help couples communicate and stay connected, the USO of Illinois wanted to provide an opportunity for some local troops to share a romantic getaway with their spouses.

This center, made up of six locations, came up with a video challenge.

The “How Do I Love Thee?” Valentine’s Day Getaway contest asked troops and spouses to create a creative, compelling video about why they love their valentine.  Contestants entered on Youtube, and the USO of Illinois put the top three videos online for voting.

Today, they announced the two winning couples on their website. Congratulations to Lindsey and Curt Borjas of the U.S. Marine Corps and Mindy and Mark Maroon of the National Guard!

Watch Lindsey and Curt’s winning video:

Watch Mindy and Mark’s winning video:

The lucky couples won a weekend getaway including a romantic carriage ride at the Eaglewood Resort and Spa in Itasca, Illinois.

Thanks to Media, Marketing, and Public Relations Director, Beth Polio and Programs Manager, Dayna Malow, for organizing the contest and making the arrangements with Eaglewood.

The USO of Illinois’ Valentine’s Day contest is just one example of how USO centers around the world work hard to keep military couples and their loved ones connected.

Happy Valentine’s Day to all of America’s troops and families! – Sarah Camille Hipp, Communications Specialist

Share the Love this Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is a holiday to show loved ones how much you care.  Why not also take this opportunity to show our Troops how much you care, too?  The USO makes it easy; there are so many ways to show your support on February 14th and beyond.  Check out our Valentine’s Day suggestions, share your own in the comments section below, and

Share your Valentine’s Day message with our Troops! – It’s easy and only takes a few minutes to show the men and women of the U.S. Military how much you care this holiday.  You can even directly share your unique message with someone you love.

Make a Valentine’s Day donation! – It doesn’t take much to help our Troops stay connected with their loved ones during this and every holiday.  Phone cards, Skype, and our private telephone network are just a few of the ways the USO keeps loved ones in touch, no matter the distance.

USO Phone Call

Your support makes moments like this - a father hearing his baby for the first time - possible at the USO.

Go “shopping” – for a USO Care Package! – You might be snowed in, but visit Causecast & Huffington Post’s “The Goods” store andyou can send a meaningful gift by clicking on “USO Care Package For A U.S. Soldier.”  You can even select to leave a note for the recipient that they’ll receive on Valentine’s Day.

Check out activities at your local USO! – Members of an American Legion Auxiliary League created Valentine’s Day cards for Troops, to be handed out to Troops at the Bob Hope/USO Lounge at Cleveland Hopkins Airport.  Check out our location directory and see what your local USO might have planned.