Your USO at Work: The Newsletter of the USO (October 2011)
(Issue 17, October 2011)
Pentagon Pays Tribute to USO
Marking 70 years of collaboration, the new Pentagon USO exhibit was dedicated in an August 31 ceremony. Located at an escalator landing on the third floor of the building’s A Ring, the exhibit tells the story of the USO and its continued support of America’s troops with a decade-by-decade timeline featuring life-size murals, photographs, and memorabilia.
“Over the course of the last four years I’ve watched the USO change,” said Admiral Mike Mullen, then-chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. “I’ve been impressed with both how the USO has assessed itself, as well as how it looks to what it needs to do in the future. And it’s on a great, great glide slope with a terrific vision and a terrific plan.
“Words cannot capture all the difference that the USO has made. It’s an incredible group of people at the USO, headed up by an extraordinary individual, who I have watched come in and change the model,” he added. “It was time to move forward in a way that represents where we all need to be going in the future, with respect to our men and women and support for them, in incredibly concrete ways that make a difference in their lives.”
The timeline serves to remind passers-by of the USO’s significant impact on American troops and their families through morale-boosting programs, services, and entertainment.
“Just as Bob Hope and Marilyn Monroe were volunteering years ago to bring a ray of joy to forward-deployed troops, today it’s Robin Williams and Gary Sinise and Toby Keith and hundreds of other celebrities,” USO President Sloan Gibson said.
But Gibson also encouraged those who view the exhibit to look past the celebrities and focus on the consistent contributors who have been with the USO from day one -- the volunteers.
“It’s really these volunteers … that make the USO America’s way to show appreciation to troops and families,” he said. “It’s the visceral support of America, standing behind the work that we do, because that’s what a young soldier, sailor, airman or Marine -- or their family member -- recognizes when they walk into a USO center. That they are there for them and only for them and that there’s not any other agenda.”
‘Cheer’ Them Up
This fall, Cheerios and the USO are partnering to thank military families for their commitment to our country.
Specially marked boxes of Cheerios will feature “Cheer” postcards, which can be cut out so customers can add a message of encouragement. Add a stamp and the pre-addressed card is ready for the postman. The USO will distribute the postcards to families at USO centers.
For every postcard received before November 30, 2012, Cheerios will donate $1 to the USO -- up to $100,000 -- to help support programs for military families. That donation is on top of a $150,000 gift Cheerios has already made to the USO.
Those who want to brighten a military family’s day need to act fast, though. The specially marked boxes will only be on store shelves while supplies last.
Kroger Steps Up Again
The Kroger Company and the USO expanded their partnership with the Honoring Our Heroes campaign to support men and women in the armed forces and their families.
The initiative raised $1.5 million to benefit USO programs that support troops and their families.
Customers and associates at Kroger stores were invited to show their appreciation for our military families by donating through activities at Kroger stores throughout the country. All funds raised went to support the USO. Also, Procter & Gamble and Anheuser Busch contributed $250,000 each in conjunction with special sales programs at Kroger stores.
“Without essential partners like Kroger, it would be impossible for the USO to fulfill its mission of lifting the spirits of our men and women in uniform and their families,” USO President Sloan Gibson said. “This campaign was a wonderful way for Americans to show their gratitude and say thank you to those who sacrifice every day for our freedom.”
Caring for Caregivers
In mid-September, the USO shined a spotlight on an extraordinary group of unknown heroes—the selfless caregivers who watch over America’s wounded warriors.
The USO Wounded Warrior Family and Caregivers Conference in Fayetteville, North Carolina, featured guest presenters who shared expertise on topics including post traumatic stress, compassion fatigue, parenting, children’s grief, and suicide prevention.
“We have to think about how hard it is day after day to be dealing with suffering,” said Dr. Kim Norman, a speaker at the conference who helped his son deal with post traumatic stress. “You can go numb or grow angry and irritable.”
The second annual conference was held to help wounded warriors and caregivers learn about the wide range of resources available to support their difficult journeys.
In addition to the caregivers focus, the USO also hosted a half-day Wounded Warrior Conference at Fort Bragg on September 15 which included discussions about survivor guilt, confidence building, physical fitness, depression, and post traumatic stress.
Thanks Through Service
Michael Eyassu saw the sacrifice of his friends and extended family members who served in the United States military. So when it came time to look for a new job, he found a way of “showing gratitude towards what they’ve done and continue to do.”
But what sets Eyassu apart is how he decided to express that gratitude. Eyassu is one of two USO employees living and working at Camp Marmal --the newest of seven USO centers in Afghanistan -- near the city of Mazar-e-Sharif. As a program coordinator, he’s responsible for setting up entertainment for troops in the thick of the battle.
So why take a post in the northern reaches of a war-torn country?
“Troops up here need USO presence the most,” he said.
A native of Alexandria, Va., Eyassu spent time as a church volunteer, wireless consultant, and loan officer before joining the USO in January 2009.
He said that while USO centers he’s worked at and troops he’s met vary, his job always comes back to the same mission of serving those who serve.
“(USO employees should) always keep a positive attitude,” he said. “Our job is to boost morale.”
Eyassu’s hard work and dedication to serving the troops has paid off. He is scheduled to become center director at Camp Marmal on November 1.
UPCOMING EVENTS * October 30: Join Team USO at the 36th Marine Corps Marathon H Daylight Savings Time ends November 6 * November 10: Happy Birthday Marines! * Thank a veteran this November 11 * The Entertainment Industry Foundation’s Rise and Honor program to benefit the USO and other charities will be featured on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition at 8 p.m., November 11, on ABC. * November 24: Give thanks for freedom on Thanksgiving Day.