Olympic swimmers Natalie Coughlin, right, and Kim Vandenberg take a photo with Kendell Meritt, during their visit to Naval Station Rota's Aquatic Center in Spain on October 7, 2013. (USO photo by Cherie Cullen)
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PHOTOS: Olympic Swimmers Coughlin, Vandenberg Visit Troops, Instruct Military Kids in Spain

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

For two Olympic swimmers, having the opportunity to help young military children with a sport and life skill while also lifting the spirits of deployed troops was an inspirational journey. American swimming standouts Natalie Coughlin and Kim Vandenberg jumped at the chance to visit servicemen and women posted at Naval Station Rota and Moron Air Base in Spain to extend their and our country's gratitude for the jobs they do and the sacrifices they make. While there, the ladies also conducted a swim clinic for kids at Naval Station Rota's aquatic center.



Olympic swimmers Natalie Coughlin, left, and Kim Vandenberg lead a swim clinic with military children at the Aquatic Center at Naval Station Rota, Spain, on Oct. 7. The USO tour, which runs from Oct. 5-9, is the first for both.


The kids watch intently as Coughlin, a 12-time Olympic medalist, demonstrates a stroke during the swim clinic.

"I've had a wonderful time on my USO trip to Spain, visiting the troops and their families," she said. "Both of my grandfathers served in the military (Marines and Army), so I know the sacrifice that is made by the servicemen and women as well as their families. Hearing their stories and being able to say 'thank you' has been life-changing."


Coughlin and Vandenberg try on the protective gear worn by Marines of Fast Company during a USO tour stop at Naval Station Rota.

"All of the military families I’ve met on this trip have been so inspiring," said Vandenberg, a bronze medalist in the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. "Our nation's military families go through a lot and they deserve our support, respect and, most importantly, our thanks. I'm honored to have been a part of this USO tour.”


The ladies pose with a military training dog unit before helping a furry star in the center with some drills. (See our Flickr set.) 

* See more images from Kim and Natalie's tour on our Flickr set. 

(Photos by Cherie Cullen for the USO / Produced by Christian Pelusi) 

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