USO Sends Off Team USA Invictus Games Participants in Style

2012 U.S. Olympic swimmer Kate Ziegler poses with athletes at a USO-hosted pep rally Team USA Invictus Games particpants on Friday in Herndon, Virginia. USO photo by Mike Theiler

American Olympic swimmer Kate Ziegler poses with athletes at a USO-hosted pep rally Team USA Invictus Games participants on Friday in Herndon, Virginia. USO photo by Mike Theiler

The USO, Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden, the Washington Redskins and other star athletes banded together to give a warm farewell to Team USA’s Invictus Games participants over the weekend.

It all started with this tweet from Dr. Biden, who hosted a reception Thursday evening with her husband at the Vice Presidential residence for the wounded warrior athletes who’ll represent America in the London athletic competition that starts this week. USO President Dr. J.D. Crouch also attended.

https://twitter.com/DrBiden/status/507903458461384704

According to the Invictus Games’ website, the competition — which is being promoted by Prince Harry – will “shine a spotlight on Armed Forces personnel and veterans who have put their lives on the line for their country demonstrating how they and their families are valued, respected and supported. For competitors, it will offer a memorable, inspiring and [energizing] experience in their journey of recovery.”

The USO held a pep rally Friday night in Herndon, Virginia, featuring American Olympic swimmer Kate Ziegler and video messages from NBA Hall-of-Famer and Navy grad David Robinson and U.S. Olympic swimming gold medalist Natalie Coughlin.

Then on Saturday, the USO helped send off the athletes in style from Dulles International Airport, with the help of the Washington Redskins.

https://twitter.com/Redskins/status/508264406560423936

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.

Vice President and Dr. Biden Mingle with Troops at USO Hawaii Barbecue

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Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, attended their second USO-affiliated event in as many months Saturday when they dropped in on a barbecue in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

USO Hawaii hosted the event where the Bidens mingled with approximately 500 troops and family members. The Bidens addressed the assembled guests and talked about their personal connection to the military through their son Beau Biden, who is a major in the Delaware Army National Guard.

Due to security, guests had to arrive several hours early. However, the USO had plenty of activities for the kids in attendance to pass the time, including face painters, music, a hula school performance and bounce houses.

“The USO is such a great organization,” Dr. Biden told the crowd, according to the Armed Forces Press Service. “I’ve worked with them many times, and they do really wonderful things.”

–Story by USO Story Development

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Becoming an American in Iraq

Baghdad, Iraq- “Man, if I was born in the U.S. I never would have seen this!” exclaims PFC Andres Martinez after posing with the mural of Saddam Hussein on Camp Slayer in the Victory Base Complex. The story of PFC Martinez and his four fellow soldiers Edelberto Elias, Seguei Maspoch and Andrew Russell of the US ARMY 4th Division, 3rd Brigade 1/8 infantry begins on a dusty flight line on June 30 in Southern Iraq, while waiting on a Blackhawk helicopter where SSG Andrew Russell is sponsoring his three men.  The men are all traveling to Baghdad for a grandiose ceremony in Al Faw Palace on July 4th, the headquarters of the United States Forces-Iraq, where they will be naturalized as United States citizens.

All four soldiers serve on Forward Operating Base GarryOwen which defines the term “middle of nowhere” and this trip to the Victory Base Complex (VBC) was more then just becoming well deserved American citizens in a lavish ceremony with the top brass in the theater.  It was a chance to relax and enjoy the benefits of being on a very large and well appointed base like the VBC. The USO Baghdad met these men on that dusty flight line in Southern Iraq and decided that it was ‘mission critical’ to help these men make the most of their time up here in the capital city of Iraq.

SSG Andrew Russell points out the Ba’ath Party Convention Center to PFC Elias, SPC Maspoch, and PFC Martinez during their trip to Baghdad for a U.S. naturalization ceremony. (USO photo)

Upon arrival in Baghdad on Sather Air Base, the simple task of giving them a ride across the VBC to their temporary housing turned into a 3 hour venture that included a pizza lunch and stops at the major landmarks of the former Iraqi leader, Saddam Hussein, like the Victory Over America Palace and the Ba’ath Party Convention Center. Tired from the flight and stuffed on pizza and Monsters, the men were dropped off at their housing and rested for another day of their Baghdad adventure.

Second night in Baghdad, the USO Staff treated the men to a local Turkish restaurant that also shows World Cup soccer projected on the wall. We figured the fellas would appreciate the break from the routine meals served at the dining facility on GerryOwen, as they only just recently got a dining facility on their base.  These guys have been eating ARMY issued MREs for months now, but on that night they were sitting under clear skies eating Chicken Tikka and wondering if they were still in the same country!  The best part of the evening was enjoying some comforts of home and enjoying the drubbing of Mexico by Argentina. Into every life a little rain must fall, though, and it was tough going on the third night when SPC Martinez’ home nation of Chile took a epic beating at the hands of neighboring Brazil in the World Cup.

(l-r) SSG Andrew Russell sponsored PFC Andres Martinez, SPC Seguei Maspoch and PFC Edelberto Elias for citizenship. All enjoyed the amenities of USO Baghdad days before the ceremony. (USO photo)

It was quickly back to business during the week leading up to the ceremony, which occured on Independence Day.  The men had their citizenship interviews to prepare for and make sure their paperwork is all in good order, but when their meetings ended, the USO has some more fun and games planned for them. As it happens, the Sather Air Base USAF Civil Engineering Squadron was planning a farewell cookout at the only pool on the VBC on Saturday afternoon and gladly extended invites to the USO and our visitors. The location of the pool and cookout used to be the getaway for the upper echelon of Saddam’s Ba’ath party and now the area is open to every service member of the coalition forces.

Altogether, Al Faw Palace hosted 156 servicemembers who earned their U.S. citizenship - on Independence Day, no less - through service to the nation. (USO photo)

Big day arrives and Seguei, Edelberto & Andres stand with 173 others and raise their right hand once again for this nation and when the hands come down they now belong to American Citizens. Years in wait and weeks to prepare for this event and it was over rather quick, all 3 of the fellas were happy but they admitted to feeling a lot more emotional then they thought they were going to. Edelberto likened it to getting married in that respect. Vice President Joe Biden and his wife Dr. Jill Biden were on hand to be apart of the ceremony that was run by USF-I commander Gen Ray Ordierno.

It was a life defining moment for the 3 soldiers but they also have work to do here and buddies to support on GarryOwen.  All too soon they gathered at Sather Air Base for their flight back to Tallil.  The USO Baghdad says “goodbye and good luck” to our good friends…and fellow U.S. Citizens

Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, congratulate a service member on becoming a U.S. citizen on the 4th of July, 2010. (USO photo)