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New USO center opens on RI Arsenal Island

Feb 1, 2013   //   by admin   //   Events, News, Photo  //  No Comments

QCTimes.com 

By: Brian Wellner

Hailed as a “home away from home” for Quad-City area troops and their families, the USO center at the Rock Island Arsenal opened Thursday.

It’s the first USO center in Illinois outside Chicago, which has five, and the only one that serves Iowa’s active service personnel and their families.

“Now, there’s a chance for military families to come and utilize a space to get away and relax,” said Jackie Inman, the Arsenal center director.

She previously served as a family readiness group leader for Iowa Army National Guard units and saw the need for USO services in the Quad-Cities. Her son serves in the Iowa Army National Guard and she has longed for a center like this to serve Iowa and Illinois active service members outside the Chicago area.

USO centers provide programs and services for military personnel and their families from send-offs to homecomings. The new, 2,000-square-foot space on the Arsenal features a meeting space and lounge, reading library and resource center, computer lab with free Wi-Fi, cable TV and gaming console, snacks and refreshments and a children’s play area.

U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Ill., helped kick off the opening of the USO center.

“As someone who comes from a family of those who have served in wartime and peacetime and someone who considers it a point of pride to have former military members on my staff, I will never lose sight of the importance of supporting those who serve,” she said.

The facility was done in a partnership with Army Community Services and Hooah! Quad-Cities, two more organizations that support local military personnel and their families with outreach programs and resources.

“Here we can take care of our troops and their families, and we’re always looking for volunteers,” Tere Pouch of ACS said.

Richard Straub volunteers at the center and said he enjoys meeting active service personnel and hearing their stories.

“This is the least I can do for the sacrifices they make,” Straub said.

He said his son serves in the military, and whenever he travels, he uses USO centers around the country.

Alison Ruble, president of USO of Illinois, a nonprofit agency providing support for U.S. troops and their families, said she’s “beyond ecstatic” about the new center.

“We really want to be a home away from home,” Ruble said.

Arsenal USO Rock Island Center – WHBF-TV 01-31-13

Jan 31, 2013   //   by admin   //   Events, News, Video  //  No Comments

CBS4 – WHBF Quad Cities, IL-IA News Weather Sports

By: Kylen Mills

kmills@cbs4qc.com

The Rock Island Arsenal adds a “home away from home” to their facilities today.

The USO Rock Island Center is opening a 2000 square foot space for active duty and their families to relax.

The lounge type space offers snacks, cable TV, videogames, a computer lab with Wifi, books and board games.

Director Jackie Insman says there was no recreation space like this on the arsenal. All she had was a small USO office, but that just wasn’t enough to meet the needs of the 800 active service members at the arsenal.

“In my office I had snacks and refreshments and it doesn’t seem like a lot but I had 355 service members come and see me just in my office. So there is a need for a bigger space.”

The plan is to have the center open from 8 to 4:30PM daily to all active service members from the base and surrounding areas. There is an open house today from 12:00pm to 5:30pm.

10THMOUNTAINFIRE’S STORY

Jan 30, 2013   //   by admin   //   News  //  No Comments

By SamFels on January 28, 2013

The Committed Indian

10thMountainFire posted this as a comment in our morning links. But we thought it deserved its own post. If you’ve been wondering lately after the lockout why you bother, this should remind you pretty firmly. And we as well would like to thank him for his service, as well as making the three of us extremely proud of what we do here, no matter how silly it can seem at times.

Please excuse this post, especially the length… but I love you guys here and I want to share something that means a lot to me as a Hawks fan.

Last night I had one of the most incredible and surreal experiences of my life and I’m compelled to leave it here in order to reinforce the idea we have about what a special organization the Chicago Blackhawks are.
In 2009, while on deployment, my family placed me on a waiting list for the USO’s spot to honor veterans next to Jim Cornelison during The National Anthem. I was called last week, as my last week in the Army came to a close, and informed that I was chosen for the Detroit game. To say this is an honor is to truly understate what this experience is. It is indescribable; every Hawks fan in the building thanks you for your service. They offer you beers. They truly are interested in your experiences and grateful for the service of the serviceman/woman.

When I arrived, I was treated like a returning Roman warrior; I was parked next to the stadium and brought in through a special entrance. Everyone treated me with incredible respect… from the parking attendants to the in-stadium personnel and fans. I was ashamed that other men and women I served with were not going to have this experience and I felt guilty at times.

When I reported to the ice area to go out with Mr. Cornelison, I was informed that I would be accompanied by a WWII Marine Corps veteran in a wheel chair. When we got on the ice, they situated me next to Mr. Cornelison, to the left of the Marine. At this point the Marine decided he wanted to stand for The Anthem and present arms. So I assisted him out of his chair and held him as he saluted throughout Then Anthem. It was an honor I can never hope to duplicate.

I was seated in section 104 with a group of Detroit fans in front of us, having traveled to Chicago to see the Wings. They were loud, supportive of their team, and gregarious. During the second intermission, one of their relatives, in a Hawks sweater, came over to me and engaged me in a conversation that began by asking me where I had deployed to (multiple times to Afghanistan). As the conversation progressed, he let me know that he had come to the US from Iraq in 1978. He was holding a beer, having a great time, and cheering on the Hawks against his relatives from Detroit. I quickly became aware that this interaction specifically, and the night generally, would be among the great experiences that I will recall at the end of my life: a soldier being treated like gold, sitting with Iraqi-Americans, cheering hockey while drinking beer and roaring for the Anthem and the Hawks. I have never felt more appreciated as an American soldier.

The Chicago Blackhawks do this with little recognition; but soldiers all over the world last night were tuned in because I let them know what was about to happen. I told them I was there not for me but for the men and women we served with that didn’t come home and couldn’t be there, those who are out of the ranks now and recovering from wounds anonymously, and those that still walk the post ensuring our safety and security.

A final note: last April, SSG Dave Nowaczyk, a Hawks fan who I served with at 10th Mountain in Kunar and Nuristan in 2009, was killed on his third trip to Kunar in the village of Pashad in Sarkani District. Other than the initial television notification, not enough Americans are aware that he lived and served… but he was part of our family of Hawks fans and he wasn’t there to see Soldiers and Marines honored like that last night. Guys like that made it possible for me to experience that. And for that, I’m grateful.

The Chicago Blackhawks are the best organization in sports. Soldiers now all around the world, seeing the Anthem display last night, now know that. We’re global. Go Hawks.

Edit: I should note that this was my last official wearing of the uniform.

Chicago-area volunteers answer call for National Day of Service

Jan 24, 2013   //   by admin   //   Events, News  //  No Comments

Chicago-area volunteers answer call for National Day of Service.

By Ryan Haggerty, Chicago Tribune reporter

Chicago Tribune, 1-13-13

Lillie Council and Leah Gipson sat at a small table at Navy Pier’s USO office Saturday with stacks of blank postcards and stationery piled between them.

They put pen to paper and wrote notes, one by one, to American troops serving overseas, doing their part to honor the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. by participating in the National Day of Service that precedes the federal holiday recognizing him Monday.

“Sometimes when you’re away from home, you just need that little bit of comfort from home, even if it’s from a stranger,” said Council, who said she served in the Army for six years in the 1980s.

“I think it just makes someone’s day to know they’re appreciated and they’re thought of,” she said.

Council and Gipson joined volunteers across the country Saturday — including President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama — who donated their time and effort to more than 2,000 public service projects as part of the National Day of Service.

The King holiday has long included a call for Americans to volunteer. But Obama gave the movement new life before his first inauguration four years ago, when he encouraged Americans to honor King’s legacy through service.

He and his wife renewed that call this year as they prepared for Obama’s public inauguration ceremony Monday.

More than 60 volunteer events were scheduled in the Chicago area Saturday, from the USO letter-writing campaign to a blood drive in Bolingbrook and a project in Grayslake to gather laundry detergent and bagged lunches for people staying at a Lake County homeless shelter.

At the USO event, donated candy, granola bars and trail mix filled a table. More than 100 people were expected to donate goods or write letters to troops by the end of the day, said Chris Miller, director of center operations and volunteer services for the USO of Illinois.

Gipson said she decided to write letters to troops after reflecting on the sacrifices her relatives made. Her father served in the Army in Vietnam, and her brother served in the Marine Corps in Iraq, she said.

“When I’m writing these letters, I picture my dad, I picture my brother, and I think about what they would have needed to hear while they were away from their families and away from home,” Gipson said.

In the South Loop neighborhood, about two dozen volunteers scrubbed doors, door frames and window sills at The Studios, a 170-unit affordable housing building at East 18th Street and South Wabash Avenue.

The volunteers cleaned every door in the building so quickly that they soon began spreading out in search of other areas that needed sprucing up.

“I love it,” said Maggie McGuire, a member of Chicago’s Fourth Presbyterian Church who helped organize the project. “I’m doing it because I believe that decent, affordable housing is a basic right.”

Laura Shiplet, another church member, said that volunteering at The Studios made her feel like she’s keeping King’s legacy alive.

“I want to be part of his dream, especially this weekend,” Shiplet said, a bucket of soapy water at her feet. “It’s like a big celebration of Martin Luther King’s life.”

MG George R. Fay, USA (Ret) Receives USO of Illinois Ronald L. Friske Memorial Award

Dec 20, 2012   //   by admin   //   News, Photo  //  No Comments

Pictured from left to right, USO of Illinois Chairman (Outgoing) John J. May, Laura Birt, Dee Friske, George Fay, and USO of Illinois President & CEO Alison Ruble.

Major General George R. Fay, U.S. Army (Ret) received the Ronald L. Friske Memorial Award at the USO of Illinois Annual Board of Directors Meeting on December 12, 2012 in honor of his many years of dedicated service to the USO. The award is presented annually by the USO of Illinois to an individual who has provided outstanding service and support to those the USO serves: the men, women and families of the U.S. Armed Forces.

The Friske Award is presented in honor and memory of Ronald L. Friske, a dedicated Director and Treasurer of the USO of Illinois.

MG Fay serves as the Executive Vice President, Worldwide Property & Casualty Claim at CNA and is a true champion of the USO of Illinois mission. Most recently, it was MG Fay’s leadership that lead to a very special tailgate party for the big Army-Navy game at the USO Great Lakes, sponsored by CNA. MG Fay and a corps of CNA volunteers helped over 500 service members celebrate the 122-year rivalry and root for their favorite team!

“CNA is very proud to partner with the USO to support our wonderful service men and women,” said George Fay, executive vice president, Worldwide Property & Casualty Claim – CNA. “The Army/Navy tailgate is a great example of one of the many ways we support the USO’s efforts. Although as a retired Major General of the U. S. Army Reserve, I was disappointed with the game’s outcome, as a CNA employee, I was delighted we were part of this terrific event.”

2012 USO Holiday Shopping Center

Nov 7, 2012   //   by admin   //   News  //  No Comments

Incredible Gifts for a Great Cause!

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The 2012 USO Holiday Ornament is here!

$20 Suggested Donation (Includes S&H)

This years holiday ornament is designed by the son of an active duty service member. The winning drawing was etched onto an elegant crystal ornament by The Crystal Cave to create a truly one-of-kind holiday gift.

This special edition holiday ornament is made available exclusively through the USO of Illinois. Proceeds from the sales of the ornaments will benefit USO of Illinois’ Discovery Kids programs, which provide military kids and families with special cultural, recreational and educational events.

CLICK HERE TO DONATE $20 FOR YOUR ORNAMENT

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Get Your USO Blackhawks Challenge Coin!

$25 Suggested Donation (Includes S&H)

The Challenge Coin is a cherished military tradition. Bearing a unit’s emblem, the coin is presented in recognition of special achievement. In honor of this legacy, the Limited Edition 2012 USO Salute Challenge Coin honors the Chicago Blackhawks for their outstanding support of the U.S. Armed Forces and their families. Proceeds from the sales of the coin will benefit USO of Illinois programs and services.

CLICK HERE TO DONATE $25 FOR YOUR COIN

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We Support the Troops

Home & Away

Orignal Score composed by Orbert Davis,

Performed by Orbert Davis’ Chicago Jazz Philharmonic

As part of its ongoing efforts to honor and support military personnel and veterans, Boeing, in partnership with the Chicago Bears Football Club, the USO Illinois and the Chicago Jazz Philharmonic, has launched “Home & Away,” an initiative that extends the Boeing-Bears “Salute to the Military” in-game recognition that occurs at all Chicago Bears home games.

The goal of Home & Away is to create an avenue for active and retired military and their families, sports fans and civilians who are not in attendance at the game to share their support for U.S. armed forces personnel. Throughout the campaign, supporters can share their personal tribute by sending a message of gratitude and posting a salute – a simple gesture of thanks – at www.facebook.com/usoofillinois.

To highlight the importance of these salutes, Boeing and the USO of Illinois will share eight short video tributes in the days leading up to Veterans Day on Nov. 11. The musical score in each of the features was composed by jazz musician and Emmy Award-winning composer, Orbert Davis, performed by Chicago Jazz Philharmonic, and was commissioned by Boeing specifically for this purpose.

The music will be available for purchase and download on CDbaby.com, the iTunes store and at www.chijazzphil.org/homeandaway. It will also be made available through the Boeing Store. Proceeds from every purchase will go to support America’s troops and their families through the USO of Illinois.

CLICK HERE TO GET YOUR COPY

A Home & Away Salute

Nov 2, 2012   //   by admin   //   Events, News, Photo, Video  //  1 Comment

Each season, the USO Illinois honors military veterans by giving them a moment on the field at the home games of the Chicago Bears and the Blackhawks. This year that tradition continues and expands as we partner with Boeing and the Chicago Jazz Philharmonic to create an avenue for active and retired military and their families, sports fans and civilians who are not in attendance at the game to share their support for U.S. armed forces personnel. Throughout the campaign, supporters can share their personal tribute by sending a message of gratitude and posting a salute – a simple gesture of thanks – at our Facebook page.

To highlight the importance of these salutes, we will share several videos that showcase the heart felt wishes of ordinary civilians and first-person reflections from veterans who give their personal thanks to those who serve as well as their own unique perspectives on the meaning of service to one’s country. All videos will be shared in the days leading up to Veterans Day on Nov. 11.

Be sure to check our Facebook page to see photos from Chicagoans those who care. Share and download the videos and let our servicemen and women know that you are their biggest fans!

YOU CAN OWN THE ORIGINAL SCORE TO THE VIDEOS!

We Support the Troops

Home & Away

Orignal Score composed by Orbert Davis,

Performed by Orbert Davis’ Chicago Jazz Philharmonic

Chicago jazz musician and Emmy Award-winning composer, Orbert Davis, and his 55-piece jazz symphonic orchestra, Chicago Jazz Philharmonic, present this 4-track EP “Home and Away” in celebration of our veterans and active-duty servicemen and women.

The music will be available for purchase and download on CDbaby.com, the iTunes store and at www.chijazzphil.org/homeandaway. It will also be made available through the Boeing Store. Proceeds from every purchase will go to support America’s troops and their families through the USO of Illinois.

CLICK HERE TO GET YOUR COPY

McDonough gets Salute to Leadership Award from USO of Illinois

Oct 17, 2012   //   by admin   //   Events, News, Video  //  No Comments

TRACEY MYERS, Blackhawks Insider

Blackhawks president John McDonough was aware of where he could’ve been on Saturday night, when he was honored at the USO of Illinois Star-Spangled Salute.

“I thought tonight, with our Blackhawks schedule, it might be a bit of a conflict. Right now, probably be toward the end of the first period,” McDonough told the audience on the night the Blackhawks were supposed to open their 2012-13 season against the Columbus Blue Jackets. “But I’m certainly standing in a very enviable position.”

McDonough was presented the USA Salute to Leadership Award at this year’s Salute, which was held at the Navy Pier’s grand ballroom. The award is given to a civic or community leader in special recognition for his or her distinguished personal and professional efforts in the support of the U.S. Armed Forces. The Blackhawks have done much to honor the military, including honoring one active duty military member and one retired service member during the national anthem.

“It’s great recognition for the Blackhawks,” McDonough said prior to the ceremony. “Every night, 21,000 people stand and applaud, and they, the players and the coaches recognize what (the military’s) contributions have been. It’s very heartwarming. It’s become a trend across the league. But at the United Center, with everybody from the start of the game with the national anthem, it’s a very huge part of our game presentation and very, very meaningful.”

McDonough was humbled by the evening.

“I’m surrounded by heroes and leaders tonight that are far more deserving than I,” he told the audience. “The freedom we enjoy is not an entitlement, but a commitment from our armed forces. Every night in the United Cente, we’re guaranteed at least one heartfelt standing ovation. It’s not necessarily for a brilliant save or an overtime goal. (It’s) the appreciation of 21,000 people, including every member of both teams, acknowledging the presence of greatness and true dedication to our military.”

USO SpeakUP! Survey

Sep 24, 2012   //   by admin   //   Contest, News  //  1 Comment

WIN A FREE IPAD

USO SpeakUP! Online Survey

October 17-November 30, 2012

CLICK HERE TO TAKE SURVEY

Help the USO of Illinois Help YOU!

Share your thoughts and help the USO of Illinois better meet the needs of the military community.

Each participant will be entered to win a FREE iPad!

Currently serving Active Duty, National Guard or Reserve Military Personnel and their dependents are eligible to participate.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Meet WWEs Eve Torres! Playing for the USO on NBC’s Stars Earn Stripes

Aug 27, 2012   //   by admin   //   Events, News, Photo  //  No Comments

Monday, September 3rd from 1000 to 1130 hours

USO Great Lakes Center at 530 B Farragut Ave.

Join the USO of Illinois for a special “meet & greet” with WWE Star Eve Torres! You can currently watch Eve compete on NBC’s Stars Earn Stripes, Mondays at 8⁄7 CST. If she wins, prize money goes to the USO! Eve will be taking photographs with fans and signing autographs!

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