Beginning Monday, May 1, the USO of Illinois will honor National Military Appreciation Month with series of special programs and services in support of service members and their families. Each initiative is derived from the USO’s core mission of enhancing the quality of life of troops and their families ‘Right Now’: offering social and recreational opportunities that raise morale and promote well-being; providing care and comfort when and where it’s needed most at every USO center facility; creating programs that support direct outreach to military communities throughout our region.
- Every Thursday in May: In partnership with the Department of Aviation and TSA, USO of Illinois offers USO Airside Outreach tables located at both O’Hare and Midway Airport terminals. Tables will provide support for military and military families in transit and outreach the public.
- USO Toast to the Troops: Thanks to the generosity of The Crystal Cave of Glenview, Illinois, Toast to the Troops sends custom engraved, keepsake glasses to newly married military members and their spouses. Click here for more information.
- USO Caravan at Chicago Memorial Day Parade: The USO of Illinois is honored to present their caravan of military and military families and USO Volunteers and Supporters as part of the City of Chicago’s Memorial Day Parade Saturday, May 26, 2012.
A new program is being launched in helping veterans find jobs. This week soldiers on the Rock Island Arsenal are first to take part in a new employment mentoring program. The goal is to step up assistance as the number of veterans struggling to find work grows.
Veterans of post 9/11 wars are facing a tougher climate for jobs than civilians. According to the Department of Labor, the unemployment rate for veterans who served since September 2001
was 12.1 percent in 2011. That’s several percentage points higher than the national average of 8.9 percent for last year. About 26 percent of those unemployed veterans reported a service-related disability, which can be one of the many challenges in the transition back to civilian workforce.
About sixty soldiers from 8 states in the region are on the Rock Island Arsenal this week for a quarterly muster. They are members of the Community-Based Warrior Transition Unit, which gives support to wounded soldiers in their transition back to civilian life. This group of soldiers is the first to take part in the USO Life Skills Resources Program.
“These are folks that have given themselves, their families, at the home front have given themselves. I think it’s incumbent upon us to do what we can to help prepare them,” said John May, Chairman and CEO of USO of Illinois.
Adjusting back to civilian life can be like fighting a whole new war for returning soldiers. This pilot program is the first of its kind in the country. Organizers hope it will enhance resources already available by connecting service members with those that want to help. “Many times when military people come back they come back with all the acronyms and all the ways of doing business they’ve learned in the military.” said Jeff Blackwell, director of Black Hawk College’s Economic Development Center.
They have skills that are sometimes hard to translate into a resume or interview. That’s where more than 20 volunteers from Black Hawk College come in. They’ll conduct mock interviews and, at the end of the program, soldiers walk out with resume and cover letter in hand.
“One of the biggest challenges we’re having is, what are they going to do for the rest of their life. If they’re medically retired from the military and they can’t return to their civilian employer we have to look at how we assist them in that transition,” said 1st Sgt. John Hersey of the Community-Based Warrior Transition Unit.
“The things they haven’t done while they’ve been in country or serving we want to prepare them so they have those opportunities and have as much success as possible,” added May.
The new program is different that other assistance available for veterans because it’s a first time effort between the U.S. Army, the USO, and a local community college. It’s not a job fair, but more preparation for that. There are groups talking with the USO of Illinois about doing job fairs along with quarterly musters if this first rollout is effective.
USO program aims to help injured soldiers get back to work – Quad Cities Online.
ROCK ISLAND — They sat in uniform, about 60 men and women injured as they served their country and now seeking their way back into the workforce.
How to write a resume or how to interview with a prospective employer are tasks the injured veterans did not have to do while stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan. On Monday, they heard tips for both tasks at the inaugural USO Life Skills Resources Program in the Arsenal Golf Club Ballroom, Rock Island Arsenal.
The pilot program — the first of its kind in the country — is designed to support transitioning National Guard and Reserve service members as they leave active duty to secure government or private jobs.
The USO’s employment mentoring program will supplement the Community Based Warrior in Transition Unit – Illinois. The Army says the unit is committed to Wounded Warrior care, with a focus on medical treatment while a soldier is at home.
Monday’s participants included police officers, firefighters, mechanics and construction workers. Now, they must adapt and adjust to injuries received in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“You know, they did physical jobs,” said Army 1st Sgt. John Hersey who helps oversee CBWTU-IL. “Now they’ve got this physical limitation. They can’t return back to that job.
“That’s one of the biggest challenges we have: What are they going to do with the rest of their life?”
There are about 340 members of the CBWTU – IL and nine such units across the country, 1st Sgt. Hersey said. The CBWTU – IL, headquartered at the Arsenal, covers Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan and Indiana.
Jobs are hard to find, especially for veterans, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The nation’s 2.4 million Gulf War-era II veterans — those who served on active duty at any time since September 2001 — was 12.1 percent in 2011. That compares to the jobless rate of 8.3 percent for all veterans.
Unemployment among young male veterans 18 to 24 years old who served since September 2001 was 29.1 percent in 2011, according to the federal figures. That’s much higher than the 17.6 percent for young male nonveterans.
The numbers weren’t lost on Monday’s participants.
“I think probably a lot of it has to do with the fact a lot of these folks haven’t been in the civilian workforce, and they’re coming out of uniform for the first time,” said USO of Illinois chairman and chief executive officer John May. “And, so, it’s a challenge.”
Jeff Blackwell, director of Black Hawk College’s economic development center, said the college has a substantial investment in the pilot program.
“Many times, when military people come back, they come back with all the acronyms and all of the ways of doing business that they’ve learned in the military,” he said. “But they have an incredible array of skills — leadership skills — and the ability to process things quickly.
“Those are sometimes hard to translate into a resume or into an interview.”
Mr. Blackwell said this is the first time CBWTU – IL, the USO and BHC have merged their efforts for such a program.
Lindsey Chapman, a group leader and volunteer for CBWTU – IL, has first-hand experience with the program.
Her husband, Army Cpl. Mitch Chapman, was injured in Afghanistan in October 2008 by an improvised explosive device. The DeWitt, Iowa, woman said her husband broke his back, suffered hearing loss and was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder.
Through the CBWTU – IL program, she said, her husband is recovering and is back home. She endorsed the program Monday.
“Anybody in the community that is going to support these soldiers, it means so much,” she said.
First Sgt. Hersey said the Army deems family a big part of recovery. He said he believes the USO and Black Hawk College can only add to the CBWTU’s success with injured veterans.
“We have several soldiers who have come to the program and have done internships,” he said. “They’ve received employment at the Arsenal.
“There are other soldiers who have gone back to school to become behavioral health specialists,” he said. “That was one of their challenges, and they really want to give back in that way.”
Chicago Blackhawks to Receive The USO of Illinois Salute to Leadership for Their Dedicated Support of Illinois Troops
The USO of Illinois announced today that Chicago Blackhawks President & CEO, John McDonough will receive the USO Salute to Leadership award for their continued dedication and support of the U.S. Armed Forces. McDonough will be presented with the award during the USO of Illinois Star-Spangled Salute Gala October 13, 2012. Taking place at Navy Pier’s Grand Ballroom, the Star-Spangled Salute Gala is widely acclaimed as Chicago’s Premier Patriotic Event, held in honor and support of the men, women and families of the U.S. Armed Forces.
The USO Salute to Leadership award is presented to a civic or community leader in special recognition for their distinguished personal and professional efforts in the support of the U.S. Armed Forces. Past recipients include Rick Stephens, SVP Human Resources & Administration at The Boeing Company and David Storch, Chief Executive Officer of AAR Corp.
The Chicago Blackhawks Community Fund Grant helps fund various USO of Illinois programs such as Discovery Kids, United Through Reading, and Camp R&R, designed to improve the lives of military families. Since 2009, the Chicago Blackhawks have worn authentic camouflage jerseys in honor of Veterans Day during warm-ups. The one-of-a-kind, autographed jerseys are auctioned online with all proceeds benefitting the USO of Illinois. At each game the Chicago Blackhawks honor one active duty military member and one retired service member on the ice during the National Anthem as part of the Service Salute partnership with the USO of Illinois.
“USO of Illinois is very fortunate to have the support of Mr. McDonough and the Chicago Blackhawks organization,” said John May Chairman & CEO USO of Illinois. “They continue to make great things happen for those that wear the uniform of our country and their families. It is truly fitting that Mr. McDonough be honored at our October Star-Spangled Salute.”
“I am very proud to accept this award from the USO of Illinois, a great Blackhawks partner who supports the many brave men and women who make our freedom possible,” said McDonough. “To be chosen for this special recognition is incredibly humbling.”
The 167 members of the 1644th arrived home from Kuwait, where they have been tending to the aftermath of a war that lasted nearly nine years. The brief homecoming ceremony marked the end of Illinois’ role in the Iraq War. Since the 2001 terrorist attacks, more than 25,600 troops from Illinois have deployed to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, nearly 20,000 of them from the Illinois National Guard.
On Thursday, April 5th, the USO of Illinois along with over 200 family members and supporters, to include the Patriot Riders welcomed home the 1644th Transportation Company to Camp Lincoln, Illinois. Deployed to Iraq in July of 2011, the 1644th Transportation Co was tasked with the collection, and removal of US gear and equipment to be transported safely to Kuwait where it will be returned back to the states.
Keeping in the American tradition of getting the job done, the 1644th, with all 160+ members safely accomplishing their mission, were sent home early to a most warm welcoming. With a police escort, accompanied by the Patriot Riders, the soldiers of the 1644th were proudly brought back to the arms of their loved ones and received with cheers of thanks from the many supporters in attendance. During a welcome home ceremony, where returning soldiers held their yellow roses given to them by the USO of Illinois staff and volunteers, Major General Dennis Celletti spoke of the efforts from those at home.
Recognizing and thanking employers of the deployed, Celetti mentioned the importance of their commitment to hold the jobs of those who risk so much more than careers to serve over seas. The unmeasurable feeling of security is mutual for both service members and their families when they can resume daily life where they left off. The USO of Illinois was also acknowledged for their continued support of our local heroes, at home and in the desert. Volunteers and staff from the USO of Illinois gathered to welcome home the 1644th Transportation Company with a bounty of snacks, refreshments, well wishes, and of course a yellow rose for admiration, respect, and gratitude for all they have done for us at home.
Welcome back to the 1644th Transportation Company!
“I was so surprised!” –Lieutenant Junior Grade William Wheatly
U.S. Navy Lieutenant Junior Grade William Wheatly returned from an eight-month deployment aboard the U.S. John C. Stennis stationed in Afghanistan. Mother, Claire Wheatly and sister, Maryellen, who hadn’t seen William in over a year, welcomed him home at the gate with USO of Illinois volunteers.
“You can’t imagine how much this means. Most of our extended family is on the coast so it’s hard to make events like this special without the help of the USO of Illinois. The generosity of the USO volunteers giving their time is so amazing. Thank you so much from the bottom of my heart.” -Claire Wheatly, Mother
Operation Homelink has donated 100 web books to the USO of Illinois to be used in each of the six centers. This estimated $40,000 donation provides service members the opportunity to reconnect with their families. Each of the USO of Illinois centers provide a “home away from home” for active duty military and their families, offering libraries, lounge facilities, and the technology to stay connected. Donated by Boston Massachusetts-based litl LLC, the web books will act as the lead tool of communication among the USO of Illinois centers for service members.
Operation Homelink has distributed over 6,400 computers to military families across the U.S. since its inceptions in 2002. Founder Dan Shannon started the organization after seeing deployed troops say goodbye to their families. Thanks to this donation, troops can say “hello” much more often.
Thank you Operation Homelink for your continuous support and love for our U.S. troops. Visit Operation Homelink at www.operationhomelink.org to share a thoughtful message.
FTD Donates 100 Bouquets to be Delivered on Valentine’s Day as Part of the USO of Illinois’ ‘Flowers from the Frontlines’ Program
The USO of Illinois’ “Flowers from the Frontlines” Valentine’s Day program encourages all deployed Illinois military personnel to submit the name of their “Home Front Loved One” to be eligible to receive a special USO of Illinois Valentine’s Day bouquet with a personalized message from “The Frontlines.” Bouquets are delivered door to door in time for Valentine’s Day by FTD, a leading floral and gift provider based in Downers Grove, IL.
FTD Group, Inc., through its operating subsidiaries including FTD.COM, Inc., is a leading provider of floral related products and services to consumers and retail florists, as well as to other retail locations offering floral products, in the U.S., Canada, the U.K. and the Republic of Ireland. The business utilizes the highly recognized FTD and Interflora brands, both supported by the Mercury Man logo, which is displayed in approximately 40,000 floral shops worldwide. The consumer businesses operate primarily through the www.ftd.com Web site in the U.S., the www.ftd.ca site in Canada, and the www.interflora.co.uk Web site in the U.K. and are complemented by the florist businesses which provide products and services to FTD’s independent members. FTD Group, Inc. is a subsidiary of United Online, Inc. (Nasdaq: UNTD). For more information about United Online, please visit www.unitedonline.com
Local school children, many of whom have parents actively deployed in the military overseas, will join favorite Disney characters and skaters from the newest Disney On Ice spectacular, Dare to Dream, to create Valentines for Chicago-area soldiers stationed away from home.
The USO lifts the spirits of America’s troops and their families. This Valentines for Troops initiative is being coordinated through the USO Discovery Kids Program, which provides year-round access to educational and cultural events, including Disney On Ice, for military families.