The USO is doing so many things to make life better for our troops and their families.  We could tell you these stories all day, but we think it’s better to let you hear from the troops and families who were the recipients of those programs.

We’d like to introduce you to Army SSG Blake Hayden. He wrote us to thank us for the amazing new connectivity he experienced at the USO in Iraq.  You are all familiar with the use of phone cards for the troops, and it’s true that for years the USO has provided a place for troops to be able to call home for free.  But this year the USO introduced something very cool.  A new private Satellite Telephone Network.  This new technology has been installed in all the USO’s throughout Iraq, Kuwait and Afghanistan, so for troops there, every call from the USO is free, and they can talk as long as they’d like (if there’s not a wait.)  It’s been a tremendous surprise to the troops there who can hardly believe it is actually, totally, free.  And as you can hear in this letter, he particularly appreciates the internet service. Here’s the letter:

“My name is SSG Blake Hayden and I am currently serving in Basra, Iraq. I am assigned to the Quick Response Force with the 34th Military Police Company. This is my second tour in the last 4 years. Last tour I was in Tallil escorting convoys throughout Iraq for 14 months. I volunteered for this tour to help the younger soldiers by training them and having them complete the mission.

Baby Connor

My girlfriend Sara and I were expecting a child the beginning of September and I was able to work with representatives at the USO in Basra to help me view the birth online. They let me connect to a hard line internet connection and stayed open late just for me. I was on Skype for about 5 hours while I was in the delivery room with Sara. I was able to talk with her before she went into hard labor and let her know I would be there the whole time. I was in the back of the room but still had a good view of what was going on. Sara was in labor for about 3.5 hours before Connor was born.

It was a wonderful feeling to see Connor come into the world within seconds after he was born. I can’t believe that being thousands of miles away that I would be able to experience Sara giving birth to our first born child. Connor William Hayden was born on September 12, 2009. He weighed 8lbs. and 3 oz.   I can’t thank the USO enough for allowing me to watch my son come into the world. Sincerely, SSG Blake Hayden”

On this Christmas Day, we celebrate this family connection, and all the other ones made possible by the USO.  They mean so much to the men and women bravely serving our nation.

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