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Archive for the ‘USO’ Category

She got married recently. And if you are looking for a pageantry filled military wedding – look no further. The bride wore an amazing wedding gown to walk up a very long historic aisle to her handsome soldier/pilot husband, who looked resplendent in his full dress uniform. This is one uniform that outshines the Marine Dress Uniform.

A few days later, he was headed back to work, piloting rescue helicopters and she went back to their home, went grocery shopping and started planning a big trip.  That trip took the couple to Canada, where they enjoyed canoeing, attended a big Canada  Day celebration, met lots of fun folks and ended up at the Calgary Stampede.  She packed carefully, and even recycled some of the clothes she already had, including her fave jeans and those really comfy heels for when she had to be on her feet for a long time.

The trip ended in the US, where they went to a huge party, he played some sports, they did some art and fun stuff; then they went to a military support activity and packed some care packages.

Sounds like a fun trip, huh?  Well, I think HRH the Duchess of Cambridge had some fun, but she was also working hard.  Working hard as a representative of the Queen; working hard as a representative of her new family; working hard as a new wife.

She met thousands of people, from Governor General and elected officials, to homeless teens; from Green Gable re-enactors to cancer patients; from survivors of fires, to members of the tribes of the First Peoples, from stars of stage, screen and TV, to children on Skid Row. The last appearance was at a Joining Forces, Service Nation/Mission Serve event.  As her husband said:

This is the last event on our tour of North America, but to my mind, it is one of the seriouslyt most important. This is because it is about men and women who – of their own freewill – choose to put their life on the line for their Country. They are the front line of a remarkable relationship between the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada, which has safe-guarded our freedoms for a century.

But Mission Serve is about something more than just men and women in uniform. It is about our other halves. The half that makes the loved one’s duty and sacrifices possible and worthwhile. It is about you: families, partners and friends.

When HRH talked to some members of Blue Star Families, she mentioned wanting to help the military spouses in  her own country. Clarence House/St. James’  has made it clear that she and the Duke are going to maintain a lower profile while he studies for flight captaincy and she mulls over which of the thousands of charities she will become a patron of.  I can only hope that she will choose a group that works with military families.  We may not hear as much on this side of the Atlantic, but our military family over there are struggling with the same issues we have; deployment after deployment; reintegration problems; PTS and TBI; dealing with the military bureaucracy.  While she cannot influence the government, she and Prince William can take the work they saw during their LA trip and extend that.  The Prince William and Prince Harry Foundation are already working with military families and Prince Harry has made helping wounded warriors a priority for him.  As the Duke said:

I am delighted, therefore, that our Foundation – and in that I include my low-flying Apache very average brother – is a partner in today’s event. We have much to learn from you.

It was wonderful to see the attention being paid to our issues by the mainstream press, even though some of them were more interested in the Duchess’ dress.  I could hope they continue to spend some time on them, without the dazzle of royalty.  We’ll see!

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Earlier this week I attended the ground breaking for the USO  Wounded Warrior and Family Center in Fort Belvoir, Va. that was also a kickoff for the public portion of Operation Enduring Care, the largest program the USO has taken on since 1941.

General Richard Myers (Ret)  told us that this wasn’t the USO of our fathers, the USO that only ran the airport centers or gave out magazines in the hospitals.  Now, don’t get me wrong, the USO still runs the airport centers, and a couple of weeks ago I was very happy that they still do…  It’s a quiet safe place, where you can get a cup of coffee, a bottle of water, and in some places a sandwich and cookies, without being charged anything at all.  A comfortable chair, a place to catch a nap, a welcoming smile and a feeling that you are safe and welcome.

Safe and welcome – that’s the idea behind this new center.  After seeing Walter Reed’s Ward 57 and 58 for myself; I know even more that a quiet place that isn’t medical, that doesn’t have doctors and nurses, with IVs and buttons and buzzers; that doesn’t have the smell of disinfectant and old coffee; is necessary.

Everyone at the groundbreaking talked about healing; the healing power of love; that this would be a place of healing; that the healing was not just of the body, but of the spirit; the healing was not just of the servicemember, but also of the spouse, the parents, the children and other family members.

The speakers included General Dempsey who remembered his introduction to the USO many years ago as young Lt. Dempsey at the Frankfurt Airport (noticing a theme?); Sloan Gibson, the CEO of the USO who talked about lifting the spirit, and uniting America in support of troops.  He called it the National Community of Care, to show true support – not just flag, parades and picnics –  “support the troops” needs to be more than a slogan.

The center will have a family kitchen, play center, recreation area, business center, meditation gardens designed to help the wounded achieve what is called complete healing.

One of the speakers looked very familiar, but I couldn’t figure out where I had seen that smiling Marine Master Sgt with the prosthetic leg.  Until he smiled at me and said it was good to see me again, and how had I done with my final exam!  MSgt William Gibson aka Spanky and I had met one rainy day at the Northern Virginia Community College location where we took exams.  I had noticed his prosthesis, his High and Tight and asked him if he’d been to Walter Reed.  This was about 3 days after my friend’s husband had lost his leg below the knee in Afghanistan and I had a bazillion questions for him.  He was very kind and talked to me for quite a while – we talked about what the soldier needs (well, he said Marine, cause that’s how he rolls) and we talked about what the families need.  The needs are not the same, but must mesh if the family is to hold together.  During his remarks at the groundbreaking, he talked about the young families, the young spouse who comes to the side of the wounded warrior and puts the family’s life on hold; may leave the children with a parent or a good friend to spend days and weeks at the bedside, dealing with doctors and bureaucrats and pain and terror, some of them are in their late teens or early 20s.  And I smiled, because that’s what we talked about that rainy day.  As he said, this center will help our service members reintegrate, and even more importantly (according to Spanky ) the family members, those that give up everything to rush to the bedside will have a place to plan, to reintegrate and figure out what is next for their family.

This place, this haven away from the hospital, away from military life  will be a safe and comfortable place for our warriors and their families.  The USO and their partners are making a huge difference in the lives of our military families.  I can’t wait to see the dozers and the concrete trucks pulling up to that site, and the walls going up.

*thanks to Gen. Myers..

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