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
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.
From noon to midnight on Saturday, February 4th, a group of patriotic paddle players from Westmoreland Country Club will host their 6th Annual Paddle Marathon to benefit the USO of Illinois.
The event will run from noon to midnight that day. The four previous USO Paddle Marathons were quite an “event” – marked by an even-greater-than-usual spirit of camaraderie and good feelings. Courts are reserved for members of the Paddle Platoon for a $50 donation per person, per hour or $200 per court per hour. You can sign up as an individual, and you will be paired with another attendee.
The Chicago Cubs Visit USO Great Lakes for No-Dough Dinner for the Troops
CHICAGO – The Chicago Cubs have announced the 2012 Cubs Caravan Tour, which includes the winner of the 2012 Cubs Caravan Visits My School Contest. The annual Cubs Caravan will feature two buses of players, coaches and front office personnel, including President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein, Executive Vice President/General Manager Jed Hoyer and Manager Dale Sveum. The tour will visit seven schools, two hospitals and a police station on January 11 and 12. The Caravan will also stop at the Libertyville Sports Complex, Lincoln-Belmont Library, O’Brien Field/River Plex and the USO of Illinois at the Great Lakes Naval Academy.
The Cubs Caravan will make an appearance at Ernst Prussing Elementary School, winner of the Cubs Caravan Visits My School Contest. Ernst Prussing (4650 N. Menard Ave., Chicago, IL) was selected as the winner of a Cubs Caravan visit because of the school’s enthusiasm and inclusion of Chicago Cubs baseball into its curriculum. The faculty integrated the team’s schedule and statistics into classroom assignments, including geography lessons based on the team’s away games, math problems using player earned run averages and winning percentages, and writing assignments that include drafting player biographies. Students are encouraged to wear Cubs attire instead of their school uniforms on Opening Day, and students sing “Go Cubs Go” during the morning announcements. The school participated in a walk-a-thon to support Juvenile Diabetes research—a trademark cause of beloved Cubs Hall of Famer Ron Santo. The school’s list of Cubs-related activities has earned them a well-deserved visit from their favorite team.
The January 12th No-Dough Dinner welcomed – Darwin Barney, 2B, Jeff Beliveau, Andrew Cashner, Jed Hoyer, EVP & GM, Rudy Jaramillo, hitting coach, Jason McLeod, SVP scouting and player development, Keith Moreland, Color Analyst, James Russell, P, Lester Strode, Bullpen Coach, Dale Sveum, Manager and Randy Wells, P.
The USO of Illinois and The Crystal Cave have Partnered to Create a One-of-a-Kind Holiday Gift Designed by the Son of Two Illinois Active Duty Parents
There’s holiday cheer in the air and the United Service Organizations (USO) of Illinois invited area military children to capture the spirit of the season and submit their original drawings for the annual “Design Our Ornament” Contest. The son of two Illinois active duty military parents, submitted the winning design. The winning drawing is etched onto a luxury crystal ornament created by The Crystal Cave in Wilmette, IL. The special ribbon-tying event will feature USO of Illinois volunteers and The Crystal Cave giving the ornaments a finishing touch by tying a little red ribbon to each crystal ornament. The USO of Illinois ornament contest was created to give area military children the opportunity to express their creativity and the chance to receive a monetary gift to put towards their future education. The winer will receive a $400.00 college savings contribution through The Freshman Fund (www.thefreshmanfund.com) plus a $100.00 gift certificate to Toys ‘R Us®!
The Limited Edition 2011 USO of Illinois Ornament will be available for a $35 donation beginning Friday, November 25, 2011. Proceeds from the sales of the ornaments will benefit the USO of Illinois’ Discovery Kids and military support programming. USO Discovery Kids provides specially designed year-round educational, recreational, and cultural events and programs lift the spirits and nurture quality family time together for military families. The contest is an example of the programs and services the USO of Illinois provides to enhance the quality of life of America’s troops and their families.
United Service Organizations (USO) of Illinois and Goodman Theatre will give 600 free tickets for the closing day performance of A Christmas Carol to Active Duty Military and their families. Before the show, the audience will be treated to a holiday celebration featuring the Shurz High School choir, an enchanted Victorian ‘scrooge’ weaving his magic spell, and festive holiday cheer! This year marks the third anniversary of partnership between Goodman Theatre and the USO of Illinois.
About Goodman Theatre’s 34rd Annual Production of A Christmas Carol
Based on Charles Dickens’ 1843 novella, A Christmas Carol is the tale of the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge, who is opposed to holiday cheer and indifferent to the sufferings of the poor in Victorian London. Scrooge is visited by four ghosts who offer him the opportunity to sympathize with his fellow man. Dickens’ famous characters include Scrooge’s kind-hearted clerk Bob Cratchit and his son Tiny Tim, the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future, the merry-making Fezziwig couple and the Ghost of Jacob Marley. Throughout its history at the Goodman, over 1 million people have experienced A Christmas Carol and the production has hosted six directors, seven Scrooges, 27 Tiny Tims and nearly 20,000 “Bah, Humbug!”s.
IL Lottery, the USO of Illinois and IL Dept of Veterans’ Affairs send care packages to deployed troops
The Illinois Lottery, the USO of Illinois and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs brought some holiday cheer to the Bloomington-Normal community today to support deployed troops with a USO Care Package Day hosted at American Legion Post in Bloomington.
Speakers: Mike Jacobs, Illinois State Senator ; Michael Jones, Illinois Lottery Superintendent; Erica Borggren, Director of the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs; Alison Ruble, President & COO USO of Illinois