2020 USO Service Member of the Year Honorees Announced

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USO honorees pictured together in a collage

ARLINGTON, Va. — Each year, the United Service Organizations (USO) honors the heroism of junior enlisted service members, E-5 or below, with the USO Service Member of the Year Awards.

Service members from each branch of the military are nominated by their command leadership for performing acts of valor that go above and beyond the call of duty and who embody the standards and values of the Armed Forces and the USO.

“These men and women have brought great honor to their respective branches of service and to the country. They exemplified bravery and courage in the face of danger and placed service above self,” said USO CEO and President J.D. Crouch II. “Putting the mission first and doing the right thing embody the core values of the USO. We congratulate this year’s honorees for their outstanding contributions and for being a force for good in the world.”

The USO is proud to name the 2020 USO Service Members of the Year and share their stories:

  • Nolan P. McShane | USO Marine of the Year 2020 (pictured bottom right): Sgt. Nolan P. McShane was overseeing a training exercise in Twentynine Palms, California, when a Marine became severely wounded. Without hesitation, McShane controlled a chaotic site, confirmed tourniquet placement and inspected pressure dressings to help stabilize the wounded Marine before he was evacuated to a local hospital. McShane serves with the U.S. Marine Corps’ 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion and is from Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
  • Petty Officer 3rd Class Lauren J. Singer | USO Sailor of the Year 2020 (pictured bottom middle):Petty Officer 3rd Class Lauren J. Singer was traveling over the Coronado Bridge near San Diego, California, when her heroic actions prevented a motorist from taking his own life. Singer serves with the U.S. Navy’s Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 14 and is from Williamsburg, Virginia.
  • Staff Sgt. Nigel C. Archer, Jr. | USO Airman of the Year 2020 (pictured bottom left):Staff Sgt. Nigel C. Archer, Jr., displayed quick thinking, exemplary leadership and heroism when he noticed a vehicle had driven off a roadway and overturned near Comayagua, Honduras. Undeterred by the terrain and the language barrier, Archer quickly jumped into action and slid down a 50-foot embankment to rescue all nine passengers. Archer serves with the U.S. Air Force’s 728th Air Mobility Squadron and is from Havelock, North Carolina.
  • Mary Ehiarinmwian | USO Soldier of the Year 2020 (pictured top middle):While Sgt. Mary Ehiarinmwian was driving to Schofield Barracks in Hawaii, the vehicle in front of her rolled over several times before coming to rest upside down on a steel property gate, almost impaling the driver. Without hesitation, Ehiarinmwian extracted the driver from the smoking vehicle and brought him to safety. Ehiarinmwian serves with the U.S. Army’s 523rd Engineer Support Company and is from St. Robert, Missouri.
  • Petty Officer 2nd Class Andrew J. Fleming | USO Coast Guardsman of the Year 2020 (pictured top left):When Petty Officer 2nd Class Andrew J. Fleming learned of a capsized recreational fishing vessel off the coast of Georgia, he quickly responded and resuscitated one of the mariners. He wrapped the other mariner who was exhibiting signs of hypothermia in his own jacket to retain body heat. Additionally, during the height of COVID-19, Fleming led efforts to establish protocols for a remote facility inspection program, safeguarding personnel from exposure to the virus. Fleming serves with the U.S. Coast Guard’s Sector New York and is from Lawrenceville, Georgia.
  • Airman 1st Class Sikander S. Rahman | USO National Guardsman of the Year 2020 (pictured top right):Airman 1st Class Sikander S. Rahman exemplified great bravery during an off-base motor vehicle crash near Hartford, Connecticut, when his rescue efforts ensured the driver was removed in a safe and timely manner. Rahman serves with the Connecticut Air National Guard’s 103rd Maintenance Squadron and is from Windsor, Connecticut.

Learn more about the 2020 USO Service Members of the Year here.

“On behalf of the USO, we commend the USO Service Members of the Year for their unwavering commitment to helping others in their time of need,” said SgtMaj Carlton Kent, 16th Sergeant Major of the U.S. Marine Corps and member of the USO Board of Governors. “Their selflessness and bravery—not only during the events they were nominated for but also throughout their everyday lives—epitomize what it means to serve. We are grateful for them and for all of our service members who sacrifice so much to protect us.”

Due to the pandemic, 2020’s USO Service Members of the Year will be honored via celebrations hosted by their commands or local USO centers throughout the month of December. Petty Officer 3rd Class Lauren J. Singer will be honored as USO Sailor of the Year on Wednesday, December 16 and Sgt. Nolan P. McShane will be honored as USO Marine of the Year on Thursday, December 17.

Join us in expressing appreciation for all our nation’s service members this holiday season by sending them a message of thanks and support.

About the USO:
The USO strengthens America’s military service members by keeping them connected to family, home and country, throughout their service to the nation. At hundreds of locations worldwide, we are united in our commitment to connect our service members and their families through countless acts of caring, comfort and support. The USO is a private nonprofit organization, not a government agency. Our programs and entertainment tours are made possible by the American people, support of our corporate partners and the dedication of our volunteers and staff. To join us in this important mission, and to learn more about the USO, visit USO.org or at Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Source: PRNewswire

A U.S. Marine will wrestle in the Olympics for the first time in decades

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The MArine who will wrestle in the Olympics is pictured with a side by side image of him in uniform and his wrestling gear

For the first time in nearly 30 years, a U.S. Marine will be wrestling at the Olympics. “It’s amazing … I never in a million years thought I’d wake up one day and say I’m an Olympian,” Staff Sgt. John Stefanowicz said after three consecutive wins at Olympic Team Trials in Fort Worth, Texas over the weekend.

The 29-year-old member of the All-Marine Wrestling Team is now the best 87 kg (181-pound) class Greco-Roman wrestler in the country, according to The Jacksonville Daily News, which described Stefanowicz as feeling “unstoppable” and ready to bring home a gold medal. He’ll be one of 15 American athletes competing at the 2020 Tokyo games this summer, which were delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Every time I step out on the mat and I wear USA on the back, that means something greater than just myself and my last name,” Stefanowicz told Task & Purpose.

“What it means is to truly show the world what we’re about and what my brothers here do day in and day out,” Stefanowicz said of his Olympic dream. There has not been a U.S. Marine wrestler at the Olympics since 1992.

“I fight for everything that I believe in and what the Marine Corps stands for,” Stefanowicz said in 2019, describing his style in training and on the mat as “high intensity, high impact, no forgiveness.” He’s made a name for himself as a top athlete, despite his age and untraditional path into the sport.

Stefanowicz also has a black belt in the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program — though it’s unclear if any of his Marine ninja skills have ever come into play during an official wrestling bout.

Read the full article on Task and Purpose.

Charles Coolidge, Oldest Medal of Honor Recipient, Dies at 99

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Charles Coolidge looking left in suit and tie with an american flag in the background

By Richard Goldstein, New York Times

When Charles Coolidge was growing up outside Chattanooga, his grammar school class received a visit from Sgt. Alvin York, the Tennessean famed for World War I exploits that brought him the Medal of Honor.

In the aftermath of World War II, it was Sergeant Coolidge making the rounds of his home state, telling of another harrowing firefight in France, this one bringing him the nation’s highest decoration for valor in his own right.

Celebrated in Chattanooga with a park and a highway and at the Charles H. Coolidge National Medal of Honor Heritage Center, Mr. Coolidge died there on Tuesday.

He was 99 and the oldest living recipient of the nation’s highest award for valor. The heritage center announced his death.

Photo Credit: NY Times

Mr. Coolidge’s death leaves Hershel W. Williams, 97, as the oldest surviving recipient of the medal. Mr. Williams received it for his exploits fighting with the Marines on Iwo Jima in World War II.

“We both have been blessed by God with a long, long life,” Mr. Williams, who had last been in touch with Mr. Coolidge about five years ago, said in a phone interview on Wednesday.

In the last week of October 1944, Sergeant Coolidge and some 30 outnumbered soldiers in his rifle and machine-gun section faced annihilation by German troops with tanks during a major battle in the Vosges Mountains of eastern France, near the German border.

Sergeant Coolidge had fought with the 36th Infantry Division in Italy before it moved into France, and most of the troops under his command in the fall of 1944 were replacements for those who had been killed or wounded in the division’s long slog. They had little if any combat experience.

His unit was nevertheless ordered to hold off the German forces threatening to attack the right flank of the division’s Third Battalion, 141st Infantry, which was massing with two other battalions outside the tiny town of Belmont-sur-Buttant.

Through the first day of his unit’s confrontation with the Germans and over the next three days, Sergeant Coolidge’s men fought for control of what was known as Hill 623 in the face of repeated attempts by the Germans to overrun them. All the while, Sergeant Coolidge sought to calm them and direct their fire.

At one point, two German tanks came within 25 yards of him. A tank commander shouted, “in perfect English, ‘Do you guys wanna give up?’” Mr. Coolidge recalled in a 2014 interview with the University of Tennessee’s School of Journalism and Electronic Media. His reply: “I’m sorry, Mac, you’ve gotta come and get me.”

After that, he said, the Germans “fired five times at me.”

“When a shot went one way, I went the other way,” he added, recalling how he had dodged the fire by moving from tree trunk to tree trunk.

“Then I found a bazooka,” he went on. “But it didn’t work. Someone had taken the batteries out. You use what you do have. I started lobbing grenades.”

On the fifth day of the standoff, Sergeant Coolidge orchestrated an orderly retreat, enabling his men to rejoin the Third Battalion a few hundred yards away.

But the First Battalion, surrounded by Germans for a week, appeared on the verge of being wiped out.

Then came a long-remembered feat. The Japanese-American soldiers of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, having already incurred heavy casualties in Italy and France, broke the siege of what became known as the Lost Battalion, rescuing more than 200 men.

Sergeant Coolidge received the Medal of Honor on June 18, 1945, in a ceremony near Dornstadt, Germany.

Read the full article on the New York Times.

Soldier Becomes Angel to Injured and Abused Cat, Wants Him to be Her Companion Animal

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Bubba the cat poses with soldier standing behind her

While she didn’t set out to be, Army Sergeant Rode became an angel to a cat while serving in the Middle East. She’s on a mission to help Paws of War with the costs of rescuing her cat, which she named Bubba, back to the states with her since she has received new orders.

It’s a mission that Paws of War can help her pull off, but only with the support of the community. This type of effort takes a village, and the organization is asking people to support Sgt. Rode, who is serving her country.

“This is a story you can’t help but to love and want to get behind,” explains Dereck Cartright, a disabled veteran who is the stateside logistics coordinator at Paws of War. “Sgt. Rode saved Bubba, but there’s only so much she can do on her own”.

When Sgt. Rode first saw Bubba, he had given up. Bloody, frail, and injured, the cat ran from everyone. It was clear that he had been fighting for his life for a long time. Sgt. Rode knew she had to help. For days, she left food, waiting nearby to make sure he ate. Initially, he cried and backed away when he saw her, but eventually, he grew to trust her and allowed her to sit within just a few feet while he frantically ate the food she left.

Slowly but surely, Bubba allowed her to get a little closer until, finally, Sgt. Rode was able to touch him. However, what she discovered horrified her. Old scars mixed in with new wounds that covered Bubba’s body. He had been through a lot and was timid, but once he felt the kind touch of Sgt. Rode, he immediately began purring, showing her the love and affection he had never been shown. She became Bubba’s angel, and he became her greatest joy while serving overseas, and they were essentially inseparable.

Worry came back to her when she received new orders to head home, and it was clear that she would not be able to take Bubba with her. She couldn’t stand the thought of leaving him behind to fend for himself or to try to find someone else to provide him with the love and care that he has grown accustomed to with her. When she heard about the work that Paws of War does, helping soldiers to get their pets back to the U.S., and she turned to it for assistance.

“Bubba is such a wonderful cat, and he greets me every time he sees me and purrs loudly whenever I pet him,” says Sgt. Rode. “I have formed such a great bond with him, it took me so long to gain his trust, and I can’t fathom the thought of leaving him behind once I get deployed back to the U.S. He has been a wonderful companion and provides me so much comfort when I need it most. I could not leave this cat behind to suffer and die. He trusts me, and I won’t let him down.”

Paws of War is seeking the support of the community to cover the costs in order to bring Bubba back to the states to live out his life with Sgt. Rode. While the organization has helped many soldiers bring their rescued animals back, it’s a mission that is costly. Soldiers tend to rescue stray dogs and cats, and they form bonds with them that help them to find comfort during their time of deployment. With the help of donations from the community, they are able to cover the expenses that are involved in such a mission.

The organization has helped so many soldiers with this type of mission that it has created a strong network of support. It’s that network that helps them to navigate through the challenges and logistics of relocating a pet overseas, and to pay for the care, paperwork, and flight that is involved in the mission.

To learn more about Sgt. Rode and Bubba or to make a donation to help with the rescue mission, visit the site at: https://pawsofwar.networkforgood.com/projects/127816-help-save-bubba.

In addition to helping soldiers relocate their pets, Paws of War also rescues dogs, provides them with proper training, and then pairs them with veterans who need service animals, all free of charge. It also helps soldiers bring dogs and cats they rescued while serving overseas to safety in the U.S. Those who would like to learn more about supporting Paws of War and its mission can go online to: http://pawsofwar.org.

About Paws of War
Paws of War is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) charitable organization that provides assistance and a wide range of programs to active, retired and disabled military members. To learn more about Paws of War and the programs provided or to make a donation, visit its site at: http://pawsofwar.org.

Jake Gyllenhaal cast in ‘Combat Control’ as Medal of Honor recipient John Chapman

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Jake Gyllenhaal headshot

Actor Jake Gyllenhaal has been confirmed for the role of Air Force Sgt. John Chapman in the upcoming film “Combat Control,” Deadline first reported.

Chapman, a combat control technician who was killed in action in Afghanistan during 2002′s deadly Operation Anaconda, was first recognized with the Air Force Cross prior to the award’s 2018 upgrade to the Medal of Honor.

The reformed recognition followed an exhaustive investigation led by Air Force Capt. Cora Alexander, whose examination into the heroic firefight that claimed Chapman’s life, coupled with the best-selling book “Alone at Dawn” by Dan Schilling and Lori Longfritz, is forming the basis of the film’s script.

Image: Gyllenhaal at the premiere of ‘End of Watch’ (Jason Merritt/Getty Images)

In March 2002, Chapman was flying with a team of Navy SEALs when the helicopter transporting them came under heavy fire from al-Qaida fighters below. When a member of the assault force was thrown from the helicopter amidst the turmoil, Chapman and other SEALs volunteered to go out on foot and retrieve their teammate.

Chapman was “the first to charge up the mountain toward the enemy,” former President Donald Trump said at the 2018 Medal of Honor presentation. The airman had just cleared a bunker of its enemy occupants when he decided to launch into a sprint toward additional al-Qaida fighters. That’s when Chapman was hit by multiple enemy rounds, knocking him unconscious.

Minutes transpired before Chapman regained consciousness and resumed fighting. After engaging the enemy for nearly an hour, another helicopter carrying Army Rangers and airmen approached. Rather than remain covered, Chapman emerged from his concealed position to fire at the assailants who were sighting in on the helicopter.

In the open, the airman was struck by two machine gun rounds that delivered the fatal blow, but his last-ditch efforts were lauded as saving numerous lives of those onboard the arriving helo. The husband and father of two daughters, then ages 3 and 5, was 36 years old.

For years, the exact circumstances surrounding Chapman’s death remained a mystery. A 2016 report from The New York Times revealed that former Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James, after seeing enhanced drone footage of the engagement, was the first to recommend Chapman’s Air Force Cross be upgraded to the Medal of Honor.

James argued that early after-action reports were inaccurate and that Chapman had not been killed when he was first knocked unconscious, as initial reports indicated.

After cross-referencing a video feed from an MQ-1 Predator drone and testimony by troops on the ground and in the air — an AC-130 air crew was overhead — a 17-person investigative team was able to pinpoint actions taken by Chapman on that frigid mountainside where he took his last breath.

“John survived that initial wounding that he got, and continued to fight on for an hour,” Chapman’s squadron commander Col. Ken Rodriguez said. “And then at a crucial moment, right at the end of his life, he sacrificed his life for the incoming quick reaction force, when he could have hunkered down and said, ‘Finally, the guys are coming in to get me.’ But instead he said, ‘If I don’t do something, others are going to die.’ He’s clearly a Medal of Honor-worthy warrior.”

Read the full article on Military Times.

Vietnam Veterans Day

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Vietnam war veterans day march 29 poster

Vietnam Veterans Day commemorates the sacrifices of Vietnam veterans and their families and is part of a national effort to recognize the men and women who were denied a proper welcome upon returning home more than 40 years ago.

The Vietnam War Veterans Recognition Act, signed into law in 2017, designates March 29 of each year as National Vietnam War Veterans Day.

Most states celebrate “Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day” on March 29 or 30 of each year. Though there is some debate, March 29 is generally viewed as a more appropriate date.

On that day in 1973, the last combat troops were withdrawn from Vietnam and the last prisoners of war held in North Vietnam arrived on American soil. It is also the date President Nixon chose for the first Vietnam Veterans Day in 1974.

Read the full article including legislation and resolutions on ncsi.org

Celebrating Women’s History Month and the First Woman to enlist in the Military

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woman smiling waving hand wearing a large brimmed black hat and Navy Uniform circa 1917

The U.S. Naval Reserve Act of 1916 permitted the enlistment of qualified “persons” for service in the Navy.  When the Secretary of the Navy asked whether this applied only to males and was told that it did not, the Navy began enlisting women less than a month later.

Historical records reflect that on March 17, 1917, the first woman to enlist in the Navy was Loretta Perfectus Walsh.

She was born on April 22, 1896, in Philadelphia and thus had the distinction of being the first woman to service in any of the U.S. armed forces in other than a nursing assignment.  Until Walsh’s enlistment, women had served as Navy nurses but were civilian employees with few benefits.

Walsh, aged 20, was enlisted on March 17, 1917, as a Yeoman(F), all of whom were popularly referred to as “Yeomanettes.”  During World War I a reported 11,274 female Yeoman(F) served in the Navy.  The Yeoman(F) women primarily served in clerical positions.  They received the same benefits and responsibilities as men, including identical pay ($28.75 per month) and were treated as veterans after the war.

On March 21, 1917, Walsh was sworn in as Chief Yeoman, becoming the first woman Chief Petty Officer in the Navy.  She served her active duty at the Naval Shipyard in Philadelphia and when World War I ended, Walsh and all the Yeoman(F) personnel were released from active duty.  As Walsh had enlisted in the Naval Reserve for a 4-year enlistment she continued on inactive reserve status, receiving a modest retainer pay, until the end of her enlistment on March 17, 1921.

Walsh fell victim to influenza in the fall of 1918 and later contracted tuberculosis.  She died on August 6, 1925, at the age of 29 in Olyphant, Pennsylvania.

Image Credit: The United States Navy Memorial

Read the full article at Navylog.org

99-year-old World War II veteran finally gets his medals

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Veteran Sgt. 1st Class Marvin Cornett sits tall in wheelchair on sidewalk in his military uniform

Shaky but sturdy, retired Sgt. 1st Class Marvin Cornett stood tall in a uniform he hadn’t worn in more than half a century to receive an overlooked award he’d been due since 1944.

Donning his “Eisenhower jacket,” a green, waist-length jacket worn by the famous general in the later stages of World War II, a garrison cap and matching trousers, Cornett was the center of attention at American Legion Post 84, in Auburn, California, Monday for an outdoor ceremony in which he finally received his Purple Heart and Bronze Star Medal.

Photo: WWII veteran Jimmie H. Royer attends the ceremony where he was awarded France’s Legion of Honor at VFW Post 346 in Terre Haute, Ind., Sunday, Sept. 29, 2019. Image Credit: Austen Leake/The Tribune-Star via AP

Cornett, 99, came in not an inch shorter or a pound heavier than in his fighting shape of three-quarters of a century past, when he stood 5-foot-2-inches tall and carried 110 pounds on his frame.

More than 77 years ago, after having helped capture Sicily, completing a nighttime combat jump in the rain and seeing heavy combat during the Allied invasion of Italy, Cornett was wounded during a combat assault at Amzio on Jan. 31, 1944, which pulled him from the front lines.

His wounds, severe enough to send him home, were listed in unit paperwork. But in the blur of wartime bureaucracy, they were lost.

Members of the 82nd Airborne, along with other active duty and retired military members, were on hand to see Cornett get the awards he was due at the outdoor ceremony in California. Maj. Gen. Christopher Donahue, commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, spoke with Cornett on a remote video call during the ceremony.

Recounting Cornett’s wartime and post-war service — along with the anecdote that until a few years ago, the man still regularly did 100 pushups a day — Donahue made an offer.

“If you want to come back, come on back,” Donahue said. “We need men like you.”

Cornett served in Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 82nd Airborne.

“You represent everything that is great with this country. You represent everything that is great with paratroopers,” Donahue said. “You are the 82nd Airborne Division.”

Read the full article at Army Times.

General Lloyd Austin Chosen as Biden’s Secretary of Defense

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Headshot of Army General Lloyd Austin III, commander of the US Central Command

By Natalie Rodgers

Retired General Lloyd Austin has been chosen as the United States’ Secretary of Defense under President Joe Biden, making him the first black person to hold the position.

Before earning his four-star general rank and officially retiring in 2016, General Austin led the command on various historical events. He served in the U.S. Army for almost 41 years, spending much of his time as a General and commanding officer. After working for the Pentagon as the Chief Joint Operations Division for two years, Austin oversaw issues in Iraq; overseeing Operation Iraqi Freedom and the combat aspects of Operation New Dawn.

Photo Credit: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images

In 2010, Austin became the Commanding General of the United States Forces in Iraq and played an integral part in handling negotiations between the United States and Iraq governments.

In 2011, Austin was nominated to be the Vice Chief of Staff of the United States Army (VCSA), where handled the organization’s budget and improved upon issues concerning suicide, mental health, and disability. From there, he took on the commanding position of the United States Central Command (CENTCOM) under President Barack Obama’s nomination, making him the first black man to ever serve in the role.

Upon his retirement in 2016, Austin worked on the boards of large name companies such as Raytheon Technologies, Nucor, and Tenet Healthcare. He also runs his own operating firm.

Outside of his professional and official positions, Austin has been known to care for Gold Star Families, the loved ones of military personnel who passed away in service. It is highly believed that Austin’s extensive experience in the field and his understanding of the cost of life are two of the main reasons why he was nominated for the position by President Biden. Austin, much like previous Secretary of Defense, Jim Mattis, will need be waived from a law calling for a seven-year gap between service and the position.

Source: Washington Post and Wikipedia

Kellie Pickler, Wilmer Valderrama Named USO Global Ambassadors

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In honor of its 80th anniversary, the United Service Organizations (USO) has named country singer and actress Kellie Pickler, and producer, actor and activist Wilmer Valderrama as USO Global Ambassadors.

USO tour veterans Pickler and Valderrama will help lead the effort for Americans, united in spirit and action, to give more than thanks to the military community.

“We are honored to have these two longtime advocates come on board as USO Global Ambassadors,” said J.D. Crouch II, USO CEO and president. “Kellie and Wilmer have seen firsthand the importance of the USO mission and the impact it can have when we express the nation’s gratitude to our Armed Forces. We hope their continued support will invite more Americans to join them in honoring service members and their families.”

As USO Global Ambassadors, Pickler and Valderrama will support the organization’s Give More Than Thanks initiative, a campaign encouraging all Americans to find actionable ways to express their gratitude for the service and sacrifice of our troops and their families. Throughout the year, Pickler and Valderrama will participate in events and entertainment engagements for service members, raise awareness of our military’s needs and share ways Americans can help the USO give more than thanks.

Pickler and Valderrama have dedicated their time and talents to give back to service members and their families throughout their careers, including touring together in 2018 for the annual USO Holiday Tour with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Ways Pickler and Valderrama have served with the USO include:

Kellie Pickler

  • First tour in 2007 to Iraq
  • 12 USO tours visiting 13 international locations (Afghanistan, Germany, Iraq, Kosovo, United Kingdom, Iraq, Kuwait, Bahrain, Kyrgyzstan, Italy, Spain, Turkey, Norway) and a ship at sea; and three domestic locations
  • Five USO Holiday Tours with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (2008, 2012, 2014, 2016, 2018)
  • USO Military Virtual Programming (MVP) session with husband, Kyle Jacobs, broadcast worldwide to 34 locations in the U.S., Qatar, Guam and Japan
  • Recipient of Department of Defense Spirit of Hope Award, Operation Troop Aid Chris Kyle Patriot Award and USO of North Carolina Heart for the Warrior Award

“I am honored to join the USO as a Global Ambassador for their 80th anniversary of supporting America’s military, especially in support of this campaign encouraging all Americans to give more than thanks,” shares Pickler. “The USO has allowed me so many opportunities to serve those who serve us, and this is another way I can help shine a light on something that matters … supporting our servicemen, servicewomen, their families, and letting them know we don’t take what they do for granted.”

Wilmer Valderrama

  • First tour in 2007 to Germany
  • Eight USO tours visiting nine international locations (Germany, Poland, South Korea, Afghanistan, Djibouti, Greenland, Norway, Bahrain, Iraq) and a ship at sea; and three domestic locations
  • One USO Holiday Tour with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 2018
  • More than 40 USO performances
  • USO MVP session broadcast worldwide to 13 installations in the U.S., United Arab Emirates, Germany, Japan, Italy and Iraq

“Touring with the USO has been one of the proudest moments of my career because it has given me the chance to pay my respect and personally express my gratitude to our servicemen and women,” Valderrama said. “I feel honored to now serve as a USO Global Ambassador, to help others understand how important it is to support the military and encourage Americans to follow our heroes example in becoming a more united community in a more united nation.”

Generations of Americans have answered the call to step up, serve and sacrifice. Wherever they are deployed or stationed—on the front lines overseas or the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic response at home—the USO stands by our heroes in uniform. Since 1941, the USO has been a resource for more than 40 million individuals, from providing morale-boosting entertainment to delivering millions of care packages.

To learn more about ways to give more than thanks, visit USO.org/morethanthanks. Follow the USO’s Give More Than Thanks campaign and join the conversation using the hashtag #MoreThanThanks on social media.

About the USO:

The USO strengthens America’s military service members by keeping them connected to family, home and country, throughout their service to the nation. At hundreds of locations worldwide, we are united in our commitment to connect our service members and their families through countless acts of caring, comfort and support. The USO is a private nonprofit organization, not a government agency. Our programs, services and entertainment tours are made possible by the American people, support of our corporate partners and the dedication of our volunteers and staff. To join us in this important mission and learn more about the USO, please visit USO.org and follow us on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

Meet the bomber pilot who will be leading the Super Bowl flyover

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Sarah the female bomber pilot close up image of her in military uniform smiling

By Jennifer Holton Fox29 Philadelphia

Captain Sarah Kociuba has a pretty impressive resume. She’s a B-2 instructor pilot, has flown more than 90 combat missions, and has more than 1,700 flying hours in five different aircraft.

Come Sunday, she’ll be adding “Super Bowl flyover flight lead.”

“It is very exciting, I am very humbled,” she told FOX 13. “We are certainly doing our prep for it.”

Kociuba, call sign “Gucci,” will lead a formation in her B-2 Spirit, along with a B-1B Lancer and a B-52 Stratofortress. She says a lot of planning helps missions like these come together.

“We’ve been working for weeks making this plan very precise, so that we can execute it,” she said. “So we’ll all brief together, and plan together, and make this rejoin happen.”

The military flyover on Super Bowl Sunday is planned down to the second.

The bombers are coming from three different bases in the Dakotas and Missouri. It’s a mission that takes coordination, and precision timing.

First, they’ll meet up in a whiskey area – that’s military jargon for “restricted airspace” – before the pass over Raymond James Stadium and Super Bowl LV.

“We will rejoin very low altitude, very high speed and very close together in this whiskey area, and then we’ll work our timing, and then do the flyover,” she explained.

The entire flight will take about seven or eight hours round trip because the Air Force is including training in the sortie. That means Kociuba won’t return to base until long after the fourth quarter ends.

“I’m not going to get to watch the game, so I hope there’s no spoilers before I land,” she added. “I’m going to have to watch it afterwards!”

Read the complete article on FOX29 News Philadelphia

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