Your USO at Work: The Newsletter of the USO (February 2013)
(Issue 25, February 2013)
A New Era: Warrior and Family Center Opens
There were big scissors. There was a large ribbon. And when the ceremonial cuts were finally made, the USO fulfilled one of the most ambitious goals in its 72-year history.
The USO held the grand opening for its first Warrior and Family Center on Feb. 5. The 20,000-plus-square-foot building on Fort Belvoir, Va., is the largest USO center ever built and also the first of its kind: a place designed for wounded, ill and injured troops, their family members and caregivers. Inside the center, troops recovering from war wounds and injuries have access to state-of-the-art spaces to relax, have fun and learn away from the hospital.
“We told [the architects] that we wanted this building to be designed to the ‘audible gasp standard’ because that’s the reaction that we wanted to elicit from troops and families the first time they set foot inside this center,” USO President Sloan Gibson said. “I hope as you have the opportunity to tour the center today, you agree that we have met that standard.”
Like all USO services, the building wouldn’t have been possible without significant donations. Nearly 250,000 Americans have given to Operation Enduring Care, the USO’s campaign to raise funds for two Warrior and Family Centers – including one that will be built at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. – and USO Warrior and Family Care programs that help troops heal and advance their career goals.
Chairman’s Holiday Tour A Big Hit
When troops are missing home the most, that’s when they need us the most.
And that’s why the USO once again brought a touch of home to deployed troops with the Chairman’s Holiday Tour. Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, embarked in mid-December on a seven-day, four-country USO tour designed to deliver a much-needed break to those deployed or stationed overseas. He brought with him USO tour veteran and country music star Kellie Pickler and comedian Iliza Schlesinger, as well as Washington Nationals pitchers Ross Detweiler and Craig Stammen and Washington Capitals forward Matt Hendricks. The tour blended performances with hospital visits and meet-and-greets, bringing smiles at each stop.
“All of the stars with me ... have been nothing short of delightful,” Dempsey said. “It is clear they genuinely care and support our nation’s troops, and that our men and women in uniform are grateful for their visit.”
Before coming to the USO, Tomoko McManus lent her skills to some of Japan’s largest, most influential companies, including Nissan, Sony and Fukuda Denshi.
She called on her English language profi ciency as she worked with engineers to translate technical documents and manuals. In 2009, McManus learned about the USO during an area orientation at Yokosuka Naval Base. She also learned that USO Japan was looking for an administrative assistant.
At home, she told her husband, a retired U.S. serviceman, about the vacancy.
“He told me that the USO is a great organization,” she said. “It made me think this is an organization I could be a part of.”
Since then McManus, a native of Tateyama in Chiba prefecture, has been an invaluable member of the USO Japan staff. On a daily basis, she fields emails and phone calls and works on reports. She manages the area director’s schedule, arranging travel and meetings.
And she’s still putting her dual language skills to use. She serves as translator when the area director meets with host-nation companies, Japanese government officials or members of the Japan Self-Defense Forces.
During bazaars, McManus is a liaison to international vendors. And she is intimately involved in planning and executing the annual Service Salute.
“Working with the USO as a volunteer or a sta member is a lot of work but it truly is rewarding,” she said. “When you get a thank you and a smile from a service member that has been deployed or away from home, it makes all of the hard work worth it.
Jeep, USO team up for Operation SAFE Return
Jeep, through its Operation SAFE Return, has committed $1.3 million in cash and vehicle donations to the USO’s Operation Enduring Care campaign.
Along with the donation, Jeep and the USO packed the new Warrior and Family Center at Fort Belvoir for a day of service Feb. 6, punctuated by a dinner prepared by celebrity chef John Besh.
From now through May 27, Jeep will donate $1 to the USO for every tweet featuring the #joinOSR hashtag.
USO, TAPS Help Survivors Cope with Grief
The inherent risk faced by America’s troops means their families are no strangers to tragedy. And just as the USO is there during the good times, the organization also makes sure it’s there when families lose a loved one.
The USO partners with TAPS – the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors – to host Survivor Seminars and Good Grief Camps that help military family members cope with a death and the overwhelming emotions that come with it.
USO Fort Hood and TAPS hosted nearly 500 attendees and volunteers at the USO/TAPS Survivor Seminar and Good Grief Camp last year at the Spirit of Fort Hood Warrior and Family Chapel Campus.
“It’s just about being a very good listener and being able to give a hug to people when they need it,” USO Fort Hood Director Robin Crouse said.
The Survivor Seminars provide an opportunity for spouses and parents to fi nd positive ways to deal with their grief. Children participate in Good Grief Camps at the same locations.
“[These camps are] one of the most meaningful things I’ve done at my career at the USO,” she said.
USO Steps Up Amid Algeria Crisis
People know about the USO’s free snacks. They know about the free Internet and comfy chairs during layovers, too. And at this point, they may have heard about our programs. But they probably don’t know we get calls like this: Get ready – the escaped hostages are on their way.
USO Europe rose to the occasion in the early hours of Jan. 19, when eight evacuees who’d survived the gas plant hostage situation in Amenas, Algeria, touched down in a C-17 Globemaster III at Ramstein Air Base, Germany.
Four USO staffers met the evacuees – only two of which were American – and passed out everything from drinks and snacks to toiletries and clothing. USO Europe also provided free Internet and phone connectivity – thanks to generous donations from TKS – and international phone cards the evacuees could use from their hotel rooms.
“It was the USO at its best – quiet excellence, unselfish service to others, a helping hand and a welcoming voice,” Army Gen. Carter Ham, commander of U.S. Africa Command, wrote in a letter to USO President Sloan Gibson.
UPCOMING EVENTS * Operation Desert Storm ended on Feb. 28, 1991 * Daylight Saving Time starts in North America on March 10 * On March 31, 1931, “The Star-Spangled Banner” became the national anthem * Operation Iraqi Freedom began on March 20, 2003 * The Month of the Military Child kicks off April 1 *