PHOTOS: Kournikova Helps Military Children Adjust New Challenges
Wednesday, April 11, 2012
Anna Kournikova dedicates her time and energy to helping military families get through tough times. Below are some photos from her three previous USO tours as she prepares to visit U.S. bases in Spain on April 14-18.
Former tennis star and model Anna Kournikova visits with hundreds of military children at a school in Guam, Micronesia in Oct. 2008.
Anna said of visiting places like Guam: "It was amazing to experience those things that I would have never been able to experience. Once you’re there and on base, you still feel like you're at home."
"I know how hard it is to make friends and I can really associate with what they’re going through," Anna said. "It was just very interesting and sometimes difficult and always inspiring to listen to them growing up in a foreign country. For me it's not just supporting the troops but the families since they're sacrificing a lot, too."
Youngsters stationed in Incirlik, Turkey, give big bear hugs to Anna as part of her week-long USO tour in May 2009.
"I feel great about using my name for the charitable causes and share my experiences with the kids," Anna said. "Talking to them about healthy lifestyles being athletic, just staying involved in their communities, communicating and getting involved in activities. Taking time to listen about what their struggles are, whether it's making friends and giving them someone to talk to about it."
Anna stops to meet with PFC Philip Paunesco at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in May 2009.
"It's so bittersweet," Anna said of visiting Landstuhl and Walter Reed Army Medical Center in 2010. "It's so sad to see young guys and girls injured and going through excruciating pain but it is inspiring to see how brave they are. Tolerating that excoriating pain. Imagine what the family is going through ... It’s unimaginable."
Then-new parents Mark and Jessica Miller (USN) are handed a USO Operation Care Package during Anna's visit to the Naval Hospital in Guam, Micronesia, in 2008.
Anna gets a lift from SPC Joshua Bogacz in Kandahar, Afghanistan, when she was part of the USO annual Chairman's holiday tour to Germany, Afghanistan and Iraq, led by then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen in Dec. 2009. They were joined by comedian Dave Attell, famed tennis coach (and Anna's personal coach) Nick Bollettieri and singer Billy Ray Cyrus.
"For me, the most gratifying experiences of my life have been Walter Reed, Afghanistan and Iraq."
Joseph Lary from Dallas gives Anna a squeeze during the group's stop in Baghdad, Iraq, in Dec. 2009.
"It’s kind of hard to describe the experience. It’s something you have to experience. Words don’t even do it justice. Or listening to a soldier’s story. It’s difficult to describe the connection, the look in people’s eyes. And I’m fortunate to be the one to bring those stories back and spread the word about what they’re going through. They’re out there fighting for us and freedom and justice and we have to do everything we can to show how much we care and how grateful we are."
* Go back to the Anna Kournikova intro interview.
(USO Photos by Dave Gatley / Written and Produced by Christian Pelusi)
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