The USO is preparing to stuff 10,000 packages for servicemen and women overseas. They’re looking for volunteers, and a free concert follows. Alison Ruble of the USO joins us from Navy Pier.
JACK DANIEL’S/USO “TOAST TO THE TROOPS” CAMPAIGN ROLLS ON
WITH VISIT TO NAVY PIER CHICAGO
10,000 USO Care Packages to Be Stuffed for Servicemen and Women By Volunteers and General Public; Free Concert by Craig Morgan
LYNCHBURG, Tenn. (June 8, 2012) – The Jack Daniel Distillery and USO are bringing their “Toast to the Troops” campaign to Navy Pier Chicago on June 18th, with a special “Stuffing Party” to fill 10,000 Operation USO Care Packages for our servicemen and women serving overseas.
As part of the day’s activities, groups of volunteers will stuff the bulk of the packages, but the famed distillery and the USO are also asking the general public to help out and stuff a bag of their own for our soldiers. All of the packages will include a “toast” – a special message of support – for our troops.
The daylong event will conclude with a special free and open-to-the public concert by ten year veteran and country music superstar Craig Morgan at 7:00p.m. on the East End Plaza of the Pier. Concert attendance will be limited, and free wristband tickets will be available at the USO Navy Pier Center (700 E. Grand Ave. #105) beginning Friday, June 8th on a first come, first-served basis.
Since the first Toast to the Troops event in 2005, 15 stuffing events have been held across the country delivering more than 160,000 Operation USO Care Packages to our troops serving overseas. The Chicago event will be only the second event held off a military installation. In addition to the toast card message of support, the packages include items requested by service members, such as prepaid international calling cards, toiletries, sunscreen, playing cards, disposable cameras and snacks.
“We’re so proud of our troops and their families and hope everyone will come out, sign a toast card and stuff their care package in honor of these heroes,” said Jennifer Powell, Senior Brand Manager for Jack Daniel’s. (more)
“Even though more and more of our troops are coming home, there are still thousands serving our nation overseas and in harm’s way,” said Craig Morgan. “We want them to know that they have our unconditional love and support, and sending them a Care Package with a special message of support means a lot. I know – I’ve been there.”
“This initiative is exciting for the USO of Illinois, as the Chicagoland community comes together to help deliver a touch of home from the heartland to wherever our troops are serving around the world,” said Alison Ruble, President & COO. “We are especially excited to welcome Craig Morgan who has not only served so honorably in uniform, but embodies the true spirit of patriotism that we hold so dear.”
One of country music’s best-loved artists, Craig Morgan has made a name for himself with massive radio airplay of his signature hits: “Bonfire,” “Almost Home,” “Redneck Yacht Club,” “That’s What I Love About Sunday” and “International Harvester”. His latest single “Corn Star” is the follow up to Morgan’s Top 15 hit and title track “This Ole Boy.” Craig received one of country music’s highest honors when he was inducted as a member of the Grand Ole Opry in 2008. Prior to becoming a country music and TV sensation, Craig Morgan spent over 10 years of active duty in the Army and an additional nine years in the Army Reserves. He is an avid supporter of America’s military personnel and a recipient of the 2006 USO Merit Award.
Due to heightened security, individuals can no longer send letters and packages addressed to “Any Service Member.” The Operation USO Care Package program is the best way to send a message of encouragement directly to troops and provide a touch of home. The USO has distributed more than two million care packages since the program began in 2003.
On Tuesday, June 5th, 2012, the USO of Illinois hosted its second annual USO Heartland Golf Classic, an opportunity to “Tee-Off for the Troops” and raise funds for USO of Illinois programs and services that serve over 300,000 military and military families in Illinois. The event is a one-of-a-kind experience for sporting enthusiasts and features a full day of golf, recreation and entertainment, including the chance to sponsor a premier golf experience for active duty military members. The USO Heartland Classic will be held at the Harborside International Golf Center.
Located just 16 minutes from the downtown loop area, Harborside brings championship style links golf, open to the public, to Chicago’s doorstep. No other course in the area can combine the rugged links exterior, with sculpted fairways and manicured greens that make Harborside the finest choice for locals and travelers to enjoy traditional links golf.
USO Volunteers and Staff Will Support the Tireless Efforts of the Troops with Round-the-Clock Presence Outside Tribune Tower.
In partnership with the Chicago Blackhawks and thanks to the generous support of WGN Radio, the will show their support 24 hours a day by camping outside Tribune Tower round-the-clock, just as the troops tirelessly serve our country, night and day.
WHEN: 24 hours a day: May 24, 2012 – 5:00 a.m. to May 28, 2012 – 11:00 p.m.
WHERE: Tribune Tower (Pioneer Court, south side of building) 435 North Michigan Avenue Chicago, IL
Can’t stop by the both but want to show your support? Click the buttons below to Donate or learn about Volunteer opportunities.
Thanks to the generous contributions of PepsiCo and the Pepsi Valor team, the USO of Illinois celebrated the grand opening of the PepsiCo Theater Room at USO Great Lakes Thursday, May 24, on Naval Station Great Lakes.
Adding to the “Home Away from Home” experience of USO Great Lakes, the PepsiCo Theater Room features theater-style seating and a state-of-the-art sound system, providing service members the opportunity to put up their feet, grab a snack and choose a movie from the center’s extensive movie catalog.
The USO of Illinois would like to thank PepsiCo for their continued support of our military service members and their families.
View before and after photos of the Great Lakes PepsiCo Theater Room.
Great Lakes Theater Before and After
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.”