USO Military Family Programs
The USO has been lifting the spirits of troops and military families for more than 70 years. While this mission has not changed, the USO has continually adapted to meet the changing needs of our troops. Military families today are enduring the stresses of multiple deployments; coping with their loved ones’ visible and invisible wounds of wars, and struggling with the grief accompanying the loss of a family member. The USO uses its presence around the world -- and the trust of troops and military families earned over a 70-year history -- to help understand and meet these needs. The USO’s broad reach and reputation attracts valuable resources and partner organizations to create a comprehensive array of programs and facilities with the scale to make a meaningful difference for our military families while sending a powerful message of gratitude from the American people.
More than 160 USO locations worldwide -- Military family members visited USO Centers 1,000,000 times last year and benefitted from some 1,700 family programs at USO Centers around the world.
Sesame Street/USO Experience for Military Families -- This family-focused show tailors the Sesame Street message to military children in the two to six year old age group. In a fun, laughter-packed, 25-minute, live performance, Elmo and friends tell military children about emotions that matter deeply to them and their parents, like being separated while Mom and Dad are deployed and feeling lonely while they are gone. An information fair before and after the show provides families information on local support services. Over the past three years, the Sesame Street/USO Experience has performed nearly 250 times at 90 bases around the world. This year’s show will feature a new character who is a military child dealing with the uncertainty of making friends as a result of a family move. The tour begins in April and will visit 58 bases in 11 countries.
United Through Reading®’s Military Program -- Using all the emotion and inflection as if they were in the same room with their children, troops visiting a USO Center, or even stationed at a Forward Operating Base in Afghanistan, record themselves reading one of many available storybooks on camera and the USO mails the DVD and book home. Children then watch Mom or Dad and listen to their loving voice at bedtime, naptime, or just anytime. Families back home then complete the circle by sending back a touch of home – a photo of the child watching their deployed Mom or Dad reading the book. In 2010, we shipped more than 70,000 books and DVDs to military families, bringing the total recordings for the past three years to more than 100,000.
Military Family Care Package -- Sending a care package, but the opposite direction, is the focus of this program that helps families stay connected. Troops headed overseas write a note in a special journal which is packed in a “care package” with other useful items like prepaid calling cards, disposable cameras and gift certificates for groceries and tutoring services. The package arrives home several weeks after the service member deploys, reminding the family that their loved ones are thinking of them.
With You All the Way Program -- USO partners with The Trevor Romain Company to promote self-confidence and academic achievement in military children six to 12 years old. Using innovative, inspiring and humorous stories, Trevor has talked with thousands of children about the difficulties of deployment and more during his many USO tours. Trevor has created a number of supportive programs including DVDs that help families with issues during and after deployment, the intricacies of reintegrating a family, and what happens when a parent returns from combat with wounds, both seen and unseen.
USO Photo Book Program -- Through a partnership with RocketLife, families upload up to 60 photos and create personal photo albums that fit in a uniform pocket. These 20-page albums warm the hearts of troops and keep them connected with home. RocketLife prints the books for free; the USO pays for shipping them to troops stationed overseas.
Operation Phone Home -- The USO provides that very important personal connection for deployed troops to reach out to their families and stay in touch. To date, the USO has provided more than 2,900,000 free pre-paid international calling cards to troops stationed overseas. The USO also launched a satellite-based connectivity network in 2009, providing a private-phone network, dedicated high-speed Internet bandwidth and WIFI access points for deployed troops in Afghanistan, Iraq and Kuwait. In 2010, troops made more than 2,500,000 free phone calls home using this network.
Caregiver Conferences -- These events provide husbands, wives, parents and other caregivers supporting wounded warriors practical advice and needed information about available resources. Sessions address such topics as post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injury, caregiver boundaries and intimacy, compassion fatigue, parenting, financial security and suicide prevention.
Sesame Street Talk, Listen, Connect (TLC) DVD Kits -- These kits give parents and caregivers tools to help children cope with the challenges that come with being part of a military family as well as strategies to help these families move forward. These include getting ready for a loved one's deployment, what happens when a loved one returns home, the visible and invisible changes that may have occurred and what happens when a loved one is lost.
Good Grief Camp -- Through a partnership with Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), grieving children and teens are provided a safe and supportive setting to absorb immense losses, learn how to cope and build support systems and realize that they’re not alone. USO also helps support the bereavement kits TAPS provides to survivor families.
IMG Academies -- The USO has partnered with former U.S. Army paratrooper and legendary tennis coach Nick Bollettieri and his Florida-based IMG Sports Academy to provide wounded, injured and ill warriors and their families an opportunity to enjoy tennis, golf, basketball, football and other activities. This four-day program allows the family to play together creating powerful bonding experiences and many lasting memories.
Healing Adventures Camps -- In partnership between the USO and the National Military Family Association, this camp will bring wounded warrior families from the Southeast together for a week of relaxation and recreation.
New USO Centers at Fort Belvoir and Bethesda -- In the largest campaign ever undertaken by the USO, two new USO centers are being designed and built for wounded, injured and ill warriors and their families at each of the premier military hospitals, Bethesda, Md. and Fort Belvoir, Va. The centers will host troops, husbands, wives, children, parents, brother and sisters -- everyone important to recovery -- and offer a homelike environment to receive the training, education and job placement services needed to move forward in life.
Camp Erin -- In partnership with TAPS and the Moyer Foundation, this program will host weekend grief camps for children and teens near four of America’s largest military installations: Camp LeJeune, NC, Fort Campbell, KY, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, WA, and Fort Hood, TX. Camp Erin weekends combine traditional camp activities and grief support.