Your USO at Work: The Newsletter of the USO (June 2013)
(Issue 27, June 2013)
Warrior Games Build Hope, Confidence
Mary Ann Jimenez couldn’t stop shaking after her son captured the first gold medal of the 2013 Warrior Games. It was a special gift on a special day. “It was the best Mother’s Day present ever,” she said after Marine Staff Sgt. Ronnie Jimenez won the 10K men’s handcycling event. “We’re all so proud of him.”
The Warrior Games is a competition for wounded, ill and injured troops and veterans at the U.S. Olympic Training Center and the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo. Five American teams – one each from the Air Force, Army, Marine Corps, Navy/Coast Guard and Special Operations – and the British Armed Forces team faced off in archery, cycling, shooting, sitting volleyball, swimming, track and fi eld and wheelchair basketball.
Jimenez went on to win silver medals in three swimming events, helping the Marine Corps team to its fourth consecutive overall title.
The USO, a major sponsor at the Games, hosted a two-hour family event that included face painting, a magician and arts-and-crafts stations where children made signs and medals in honor of their competing parent.
Athletes at each venue could also fi nd a Mobile USO, duffle bags, snacks and on-site support made possible by Rocky Mountain USO staff and volunteers
USO, Congress Team Up for Service Project
Rarely do so many important men and women in suits line up to pose with a children’s icon.
More than 60 members of Congress came out in late May for the Operation USO Care Package Service Project in the foyer of the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill. And just as the dozens of elected officials and congressional staffers started packing supplies into plastic bags headed for Afghanistan, Cookie Monster's giant blue hand reached in to help out.
The service project – which the USO hosts twice a year in the Rayburn Foyer – produced 2,000 care packages destined for troops serving in Afghanistan.
“The soldiers, the sailors, the airmen, the Marines – all of them really appreciate these packages when they get over there,” said Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-Calif.), a cochair of the USO Congressional Caucus and the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.
The event also served to highlight the USO’s five-year partnership with Sesame Street. The Sesame Street/USO Experience for Military Families – the USO’s longest-running tour – will visit 42 military installations in eight countries in the coming months.
USO Opens New Center in Nashville Airport
Heather Harrington was having trouble finishing a conversation. It was hardly her fault.
The new manager of the USO Nashville – located in the Nashville International Airport – had a stream of wellwishers flowing past the 900-square-foot center’s welcome desk at its official grand opening in early May. After months of 90-hour weeks, she still couldn’t catch her breath.
“I’ve got a really good group of volunteers and they’ve been willing to bend to do anything I’ve needed them to do,” she said, pausing between sentences to shake hands and trade smiles.
Located between the C and D concourses inside security, the center will serve more than 14,000 troops and families – many of them Fort Campbell-based – who travel through the airport each year.
There’s a TV room with leather sofas, a game room with six fl at screens hooked to Xbox 360s, a kids play area, four computer terminals with Internet access, free Wi-Fi, a small kitchen and plenty of places to sit and relax.
“Every day inside this center, countless little things will make life better for our troops and their families,” USO President Sloan Gibson told a crowd of more than 200 people at the opening.
Where They Need USO Most
Of the many lessons that Sabrina Pullido has learned in her time as the USO’s Italy Area Director, one stands out.
“You can’t be sitting on your chair hoping to serve hundreds of sailors,” she said. “You need to go where the sailors need you.”
Pullido’s area includes USO Rome and USO Naples, which was recently named the best overall USO center, based on a worldwide survey of troops and families. She said it’s important to be where the troops are and to enlist the help of the community.
“It never ceases to amaze me how much generosity, goodwill and support the public has for the USO mission,” Pullido said.
Pullido – a Navy brat who spent most of her childhood at bases in Naples and Sigonella, Sicily – joined the USO in 2011 at age 23. At fi rst, she was drawn to the dynamic work environment. It soon became a much deeper connection.
“The USO mission is without a doubt my favorite part of the job,” she said. “To get up, knowing you can make a difference every day, in a different way, is a great motivator.”
Barbecue for the Troops: A New Summer Tradition
The pools are open and the grills are fired up. Summer is in full swing.
This year, supporters of our troops all across the country are adding a new dimension to the typical summertime cookout with help from the USO’s Barbecue for the Troops.
The new initiative invites Americans to turn any celebration into an opportunity to support the military by raising funds for the USO programs and services that our troops and families enjoy the most.
If you’re interested in hosting a Barbecue for the Troops event, you can get started by visiting BBQfortheTroops.org. There you can register your event and download a toolkit that will walk you through the planning process and provide simple tips to help make your event a smashing success.
You might request that guests make a donation to the USO to attend the cookout. Or you might make their donation an entry fee into a horseshoes, volleyball or badminton tournament, or maybe a pie-eating contest.
Barbecue for the Troops is part of the USO’s Honor, Salute, Celebrate campaign to recognize our troops and families and to thank them for their sacrifice.
Jaden, Will Smith and USO Screen ‘After Earth’ at Fort Hood
Will Smith’s trademark smile flashed as he moved from his dressing room to the stage for sound check and on to the media room. Behind him, his son Jaden followed in his footsteps, literally and figuratively.
Will’s new film, “After Earth,” is a launching pad for Jaden’s transition into the space that Will has commanded for almost two decades: action film icon. But this event was all about the Smiths showing their appreciation for the troops at Fort Hood in Killeen, Texas.
“I’ve been aware of the USO for years.” Will said. “We’ve been trying to find something for a while and this was just a perfect opportunity.”
The evening included a meet-and-greet where the Smiths chatted with more than 100 wounded troops and their families, followed by a Q&A with about a dozen of the approximately 2,400 troops and family members who gathered for a special screening of the new film. Then the surprise: a rare performance of some of Will’s greatest songs, backed by his longtime recording partner DJ Jazzy Jeff.
Tell USO Survey ★ Some results from the 2012 TellUSO survey in which thousands of troops and family members from around the world participated ★ 93 percent say the USO helps ease separation from family and friends ★ 95 percent believe the USO lets them know their country supports them ★ 90 percent say USO personnel have had a positive impact on them personally ★