Your USO at Work: The Newsletter of the USO (October 2013)
(Issue 29, October 2013)
Sesame Street/USO Experience Reaches Milestone on Tour
Sesame Street and the USO extended their world tour to bring Katie, a Sesame Street character and military child experiencing the stresses of moving to a new duty station, to military installations in Guam and Hawaii. In doing so, the tour reached its 400,000th military family member at Kadena Air Base in Japan on Oct. 2.
Angela Hong, Sesame Street/USO Experience for Military Families coordinator, grew up in Katie’s shoes as a military child, so she understands the pressures military kids face.
“There are many things in my military family life that I previously did not understand or appreciate that I now wouldn’t trade for anything else,” Hong shared recently with the USO. “But it took a long time and life experiences to understand. The work that Sesame Street and the USO do to help our nation’s military families is an invaluable investment in their futures.”
From Germany to Japan, and from Alaska to the South Pacific, the Sesame Street/USO Experience has been on the road providing shows free of charge. The tour recently traveled through U.S. military installations in Japan, South Korea and Guam, and will make tour stops at U.S. bases in Hawaii in November.
“I wish I knew Katie when I was a young, a nervous girl moving to different countries,” Hong wrote. “She helps military kids understand they aren’t alone and why moving or changes in life have to happen. Katie further helps children see the positives in moving, like making new friends, seeing new places, and keeping in touch with old ones!”
Michelle Obama Makes Visit to USO Warrior and Family Center at Belvoir
First lady Michelle Obama paid her first visit to the USO Warrior and Family Center at Fort Belvoir, Va., on Sept. 11.
“I just wanted to shine a light on all the great work the USO is doing for families like these all over the country,” Obama said during brief remarks at the center.
Obama, along with actor and longtime USO supporter Gary Sinise, worked with children from military families to create a group art project that was later displayed at the National Intrepid Center of Excellence (NICoE) satellite center on base. The NICoE, which supports troops dealing with brain injuries, employs art therapy as a way to help injured troops heal. (See the video.)
Kroger Donates Nearly $3.2M to the USO
Kroger has generously donated nearly $3.2 million to the USO this year to help us lift the spirits of our troops and their families. The company, the nation’s largest traditional grocery retailer, is committed to supporting members of the military and their families and has donated more than $8.2 million to the USO since 2010.
The funds, raised through Kroger’s “Honoring our Heroes” campaign, will help support the wide range of programs and services the USO provides to service members, their families, wounded, ill and injured troops, and our veterans. With help from key corporate partners, Kroger was able to raise money through the sale of special- edition products and with contributions from customers and associates at Kroger’s family of stores across the country.
Kroger is also making it easier to support the troops online. When customers visit www.honoringourheroes.com, they can volunteer with the USO, make a donation or write a note to a service member. They can also learn about the hundreds of Kroger employees who are currently serving in the U.S. military.
USO Duty Manager in Southwest Asia Committed to Mission
Christina Ambrose has always been a strong supporter of American troops, even before she became a duty manager at USO Camp Buehring in Kuwait.
Her family volunteered at USO South Carolina and she fell in love with the organization once she started volunteering. When asked if she was interested in a full-time position in Southwest Asia, she jumped at the opportunity.
She’s been a USO employee for more than a year and loves coming into work every day.
“We have such an amazing staff and our volunteers truly are the heart of our center. They never cease to amaze me with their humor, creative ideas and their passion for our mission.”
The USO staff and volunteers organize lots of fun events and programs for troops at Camp Buehring, but one in particular sticks out for Ambrose.
“I had literally just arrived in Kuwait earlier in the week, and [the Halloween Zombie 5K Run] was the first event I took part in. So, I started off my USO career being chased by zombies.”
Thankfully, those zombies never got to her, and Ambrose is still fully committed to lifting the spirits of troops and their families.
“I love everything that the USO stands for, and to be a part of such an incredible organization and help fulfill our mission is such a rewarding feeling.”
USO/National Military Family Association Retreats Help Families Relax and Rebuild
Sometimes you need to step away from a situation to learn from it.
USO/National Military Family Association Operation Purple Healing Adventures Retreats allow wounded, ill and injured troops and their families to do just that. The retreats let attendees relax, reconnect and spend quality time learning how to play again as a family.
Thirteen families attended the three-day event at IslandWood, an outdoor learning center in Bainbridge, Wash.
The families worked with clinicians, Military Family Life Consultants as well as both National Military Family Association and IslandWood staff and participated in outdoor activities, therapeutic interventions and animal- assisted therapy.
The USO plays a key role in the retreats by working with local military to assist with identifying families who would benefit from the program and making a substantial financial contribution to operate each co-branded retreat.
USO Celebrates Openings in S.C. and South Korea
The USO goes where the troops go. In September, that meant celebrations in both rural Eastover, S.C., and Seoul, the capital of South Korea.
The doors to the newly renovated USO day room at the McCrady Training Center in South Carolina opened Sept. 13 with a barbecue and ribbon-cutting ceremony. Like regular USO centers, USO day rooms offer a comfortable place where troops can connect, watch TV, or just put their feet up and relax.
The McCrady Training Center day room supports troops from all branches who use the area for readiness and pre-deployment training.
One day earlier, USO Seoul officially opened its doors. The celebration included military leaders and troops, a performance from the USO Show Troupe and a ribboncutting ceremony. The Seoul center is located at the heart of Yongsan Garrison, which serves as the hub for U.S. military operations in South Korea.
The opening is the culmination of a move for the USO from Camp Kim to Yongsan, which allows the USO to better serve the troops and military families living in the region.
“We wanted to create a place where troops and military families could relax and spend time with their friends and family back home,” said Carly Harris, Regional Vice President USO Pacific. “We also want to create a sense of community for those younger service members serving their first overseas tour. Our many activities and volunteer opportunities are great ways for them to get involved during their time in country.”