Guardsman Goes for Gold Again as Olympic Bobsledder

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By Katie Lange
Defense Media Activity

Being an Olympian is old hat for New York Army National Guard Sgt. Justin Olsen.

New York Army National Guard Sgt. Justin Olsen. National Guard photo

The 30-year-old from San Antonio earned an Olympic gold medal in Vancouver in 2010 as the brakeman on the four-man team that earned the first U.S. men’s bobsled gold in more than 60 years.

In Sochi, Olsen was the brakeman for driver and fellow New York Army National Guard Sgt. Nick Cunningham in the four-man competition. They came in 12th that year.

Pyeongchang will be a little different for Olsen. He’s trying his hand at driver this time, which pretty much makes him the pilot who steers the ship and makes sure the other bobsledders load into the sled at the right time. Apparently he had to lose 35 pounds to make that transition.

This time, Olsen will be in competition with Cunningham, who will once again drive one of the other U.S. sleds.

Another first for Olsen: He’ll be taking part in the two-man competition this year, too.

Olsen started bobsledding in 2007 after he heard about tryouts on the radio – which is kind of funny, since he was afraid of rollercoasters as a kid. But he managed to get over that fear, and it worked out well for him. He made the World Cup team in his first year in the sport.

Former U.S. Army bobsledder Steven Holcomb and teammates Justin Olsen (middle left), Steve Mesler and Curt Tomasevicz bite their gold medals after winning the Olympic four-man bobsled crown during the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games. Army photo by Tim Hipps

Olsen won gold in the World Championships in his second season in 2009 and again in 2012.

Being an athlete came pretty natural to him. He played tight end in football for the U.S. Air Force Academy.

Good luck to Olsen and all of our military Olympians!

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Guardsman Goes for Gold Again as Olympic Bobsledder

Guard Soldier: From Track to Bobsledder to Olympian

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By Katie Lange
Defense Media Activity

Track and field and bobsledding aren’t often thought of as similar sports: Summer vs. winter. Ice vs. track. Giant steel sled vs. … well… mostly feet.

NY Army National Guard Sgt. Nick Cunningham. Army photo

But when you really think about it, there’s a good amount of sprinting involved in both. That transition is how New York Army National Guard Sgt. Nick Cunningham got started in the sport of bobsledding a decade ago. Now, he’s prepping for his third Olympics.

Cunningham, 32, of Monterey, California, is a member of one of the three U.S. bobsled teams that qualified for the Pyeongchang Olympics this year, and he’s got lots of experience. Cunningham was on two- and four-man teams at both the Vancouver and Sochi Olympics.

And oh yeah – he’s got that military experience, too. Cunningham is one of a few 2018 Olympians who’s also a soldier in the New York Army National Guard.

His athletic career started at Monterey Peninsula College before he transferred to Boise State University, where he was the captain of the track and field team. He graduated with a degree in communications in 2008. That same year, he decided to try out bobsledding. Bursts of speed are required to get the sleds going, so he figured it wasn’t too far a cry from sprinting on a track.

You could say it was a successful change, too, since he made it to the Vancouver Olympics two years later.

After that experience, Cunningham heard about the World Class Athlete Program and decided to join the Army, where he’s a carpentry and masonry specialist. Some of his duties include helping with natural disaster recovery efforts, such as Hurricane Sandy.

Cunningham (front) pushes a modified bobsled during practice. DoD photo by David Vergun

In Vancouver, Cunningham served as a brakeman, but he’s since transitioned to the role of driver, which is pretty much the pilot of the bobsled in charge of steering. It’s his job to make sure the team is working well together and is “loading” when they’re supposed to, meaning piling on the bobsled after the push phase.

It’s a pretty big responsibility.

“I can get someone killed in this sport,” Cunningham told Army News Service. “You’re basically going down a twisting mile-long track at 90 mph with no seatbelt. We go flat-out. We don’t touch the brakes until we reach the bottom.”

Fun fact: Cunningham also has a master’s degree in athletic coaching. So maybe when he retires from bobsledding, he’ll try his hand at that?

Good luck to him and the rest of the U.S. military Olympians!

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Guard Soldier: From Track to Bobsledder to Olympian

Let’s Talk About Sex, Occupational Therapist Says

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By Military Health System Communications Office

Even under the best circumstances, talking about sex can be difficult. Imagine, then, how service members who’ve experienced a physical or psychological injury might feel about the topic. Helping wounded warriors address sex and intimacy is the mission and – pardon the expression – the passion of Kathryn Ellis.

Occupational therapist Kathryn Ellis meets with a patient at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. Courtesy photo

“The cultural stigma that it’s not OK to talk about sex runs really deep,” said Ellis, an occupational therapist at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. Health professionals may avoid the subject because they don’t feel either competent or confident to deal with it, she added.

“Maybe they feel like they’re not allowed to bring it up, or it’s not appropriate, or the patient doesn’t want them to,” she said. “But we need to treat sex and intimacy as any other valued conversation we have with service members.”

Ellis has been working at Walter Reed Bethesda since 2011. “She’s very knowledgeable on this topic,” said Laurie Lutz, chief of training, education, and simulation at the Extremity Trauma and Amputation Center of Excellence (EACE) at the Defense Health Headquarters in Falls Church, Virginia.

“She’s the one we reach out to for clinician education,” Lutz said.

EACE was the primary sponsor of this year’s Federal Advanced Amputation Skills Training symposium, which brought together health and wellness experts throughout the Department of Defense and Veterans Administration to communicate best practices in caring for wounded warriors and others with limb loss. Amputation is a catastrophic event causing impaired mobility and possibly secondary health and psychological issues, Lutz said.

Ellis was one of the featured speakers at the symposium. During her presentation, she paraphrased pioneering sex researchers Masters and Johnson:

“Absence of sensation doesn’t mean absence of feelings. Inability to move doesn’t mean inability to please. Inability to perform doesn’t mean inability to enjoy. Loss of genitals doesn’t mean loss of sexuality.”

Along with holding a master’s degree in occupational therapy, Ellis is certified in sexuality counseling from the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists. But this certification isn’t required for OTs to address intimacy, she said.

“Occupational therapy focuses on the physical, cognitive, and emotional components of the activities humans find meaningful,” she said. “Successful rehabilitation is resuming satisfying experiences in valued life occupations, including sexual activity and intimate social participation.”

At Walter Reed Bethesda, sex and intimacy is addressed in occupational therapists’ standard evaluation of clients. “We bring it up to identify particular concerns and needs, and then get clients connected with the services they might need,” Ellis said.

Other professionals may be brought in, including physical therapists, urologists, and behavioral health providers. Wounded warriors may face physical and psychological issues that can impact intimacy and sex, including bowel and bladder dysfunction, decreased energy, loss of sensation, memory problems, and poor self-image.

“A key focus is to improve our clients’ self-awareness and confidence so they can communicate more effectively what they desire in an intimate relationship or during a sexual encounter,” Ellis said.

And that’s important, she said, because positive intimate and sexual experiences lead to an overall better quality of life.

“I always encourage OTs and other health care providers to look at intimacy and sex from a wellness promotion point of view,” she said.

Ellis said sex and intimacy after physical or psychological injury may be more complicated than before the injury, and it’s certainly different.

“But I do think it’s possible that it can be better,” she said. “Our goal as occupational therapists is to give wounded warriors skills they can utilize as they recover to help them maintain positive sexual encounters and intimate relationships throughout their lifespan. And that’s the true success of OT intervention.”

Article originally posted on health.mil.

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Let’s Talk About Sex, Occupational Therapist Says

Army Medic Receives Medal of Honor for Heroic Actions in Vietnam

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This blog is part of a weekly series called “Medal of Honor Monday,” in which we’ll highlight one of the nearly 3,500 Medal of Honor recipients who have earned the honor of wearing the U.S. military’s highest medal for valor. 

By Alex Snyder, Defense Media Activity

What makes a man a hero?

For Lawrence Joel, it was one selfless act.

Joel was born on George Washington’s birthday, Feb. 22, 1928. His family was desperately poor, living in the slums near Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

With ten children to feed, there was never enough money to go around. Joel regularly wrapped his feet in burlap sacks to hunt for coal to heat his family’s shack. He was chronically absent from school, often because he didn’t have clothes to wear.

Arlington Cemetery courtesy photo

At age 8, Joel was taken in by Clayton Samuel and his family. Samuel owned a truck that he sold wood, coal and ice out of. It became Joel’s job to sound the auto brake drum on its side, alerting customers in the country towns.

Joel was by all accounts, average.

He attended the local schools where he made average grades. He was of average build and a mild manner. However, he wished to escape poverty and North Carolina. At age 17, Joel joined the Merchant Marines. A year later, he joined the Army on his birthday in 1946.

He got out of the Army in 1949, held a number of jobs, and met his wife Dorothy while serving as a civilian inspector of artillery shells at Fort Meade, Maryland.

In 1953, just as the Korean War was ending, Joel rejoined the Army as an airborne medic.

He had a tour in Lebanon, and in Alaska he received a citation after treating troopers burned in a personnel carrier explosion. He patched up broken bones that inevitably followed paratroop drops.

Joel went to Okinawa in November 1964, to join the 173rd Airborne Brigade. Five months later he was in Vietnam. He’d never treated any battle casualties, and he’d never seen any action.

That was before Nov. 8, 1965, and 16 hours of hell.

While searching the hot, sticky jungle, Joel’s unit encountered nearly 700 Viet Cong soldiers. In the ensuing battle, Joel was wounded twice. One slug struck him in his calf. Another hit him in a thigh.

After being wounded the first time, Joel bandaged himself and gave himself a shot of morphine, then went back to working on the wounded, treating 13 soldiers and saving the life of one who had suffered a serious chest wound, before his supplies were exhausted.

“I found a stick on the ground with a little crook in it,” Joel later recalled. “I broke it about waist high and sort of cradled my arm in it so I could hobble around. That way I could make it from one man to the next — sort of fall down beside him, then pull myself up on a tree or something when I finished.”

Joel is presented with the Medal of Honor by President Lyndon B. Johnson on March 9, 1967. White House courtesy photo

Throughout the fighting, Joel ignored warnings to stay out of the line of fire and continued attending to the wounded men.

After the battle, his commanding officer said, “Joel was definitely not worried about getting wounded. Usually, when you hear metal flying, the normal inclination is to get as low as you can or to get something between you and the flying metal. But not Joel.”

Joel spent three months recovering from his wounds in a hospital in Saigon, Vietnam. He was awarded the Silver Star, and later, the Medal of Honor, by President Lyndon B. Johnson. He was the first living African-American to receive the Medal of Honor since the Spanish-American War ended in 1898.

“I’m glad to be alive,” Joel said, after the Medal of Honor presentation in the White House Rose Garden. “I just wish I could have done more. I’ll never say I deserved the medal. That’s just not for me to say. It was my job.”

Joel retired from the Army as a sergeant first class in 1973 and died in 1984 from complications from diabetes. He was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

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Army Medic Receives Medal of Honor for Heroic Actions in Vietnam

Veteran Olympian Is 1 of 3 Luge Soldiers In Pyeongchang

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By Katie Lange
Defense Media Activity

By day, Sgt. Matthew Mortensen is an engineer, both as a civilian and for the New York Army National Guard’s 1156th Engineer Company. And oh yea – he also qualified for the Olympics for the third time.

The 32-year-old from Huntington Station, New York, is a world-class competitor in luge and is ready to hit the world stage again in Pyeongchang, South Korea, with his men’s doubles partner, Jayson Terdiman.

New York Army National Guard Sgt. Matthew Mortensen is part of the Army World Class Athlete Program and will be competing in luge in the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics. Photo courtesy of Facebook

Mortensen started competing in luge when he was 12, and it was a sport that stuck through his teen years. Luckily, joining the military gave him the chance to continue competing as an adult while also working on his post-athletic career.

“I joined the military to put me on a direct heading for going to school and giving me something after I was done as an athlete,” he said. “I got into the World Class Athlete Program, and by being in that program, it allowed me to be an athlete and be a soldier at the same time, which is awesome.”

One of the parts he likes best about luge? The thin line between control and a lack of it.

“My favorite part of going down the actual track is the adrenaline I get before each run,” he said. “It’s a little bit of nerves and a little bit of adrenaline, and I feed off it. I love that feeling.”

Mortensen also competed in the 2014 Sochi Olympics, where he and his partner finished 14th. He said this time, the competition will be from a different perspective.

“The first time around, I was really excited about the experience, and to do that again is unbelievable. But I am coming in hoping for medals,” he said.

Staff Sgt. Matt Mortensen takes off from the start line during a practice run at the 2017 World Cup competition at Lake Placid, New York. Mortensen, a World Class Athlete, qualified for his third Olympics. U.S. Army photo by Joe Lacdan

Regardless of the outcome, it’s still a tremendous honor.

“Going to the Olympics is special. Going to the Olympics and representing your country as an athlete and soldier is very special – not a lot of people get to say they can do that,” he said. “These are all types of memories I can carry with me for my entire life, something that I’ll always cherish.”

Mortensen won’t be the only soldier competing in luge in Pyeongchang. Sgt. Emily Sweeney, 22, and 26-year-old Sgt. Taylor Morris will represent the U.S. Army in South Korea.

Whether they win any medals or not in Korea, these soldiers will always be winners to us!

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Disclaimer: The appearance of hyperlinks does not constitute endorsement by the Department of Defense of this website or the information, products or services contained therein. For other than authorized activities such as military exchanges and Morale, Welfare and Recreation sites, the Department of Defense does not exercise any editorial control over the information you may find at these locations. Such links are provided consistent with the stated purpose of this DOD website.

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Veteran Olympian Is 1 of 3 Luge Soldiers In Pyeongchang

After 2 Heartbreaks, 3rd Time’s the Charm for Luging Soldier

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By Katie Lange
Defense Media Activity

Third time’s the charm, right?

That’s something New York Army National Guard Sgt. Emily Sweeney knows all too well. She made the U.S. Olympic luge team this year after missing out twice before – including a tough loss to her sister.

New York Army National Guard Sgt. Emily Sweeney will make her Olympic debut in Pyeongchang. Army photo by Brett West

Sweeney, 24, of Suffield, Connecticut, is a military police soldier and a member of the Army World Class Athlete program. She’ll be competing at Pyeongchang in the women’s singles competition.

Luge is something that’s been ingrained in Sweeney since she was 10 – and it runs in the family, too. Her sister, Megan, was also a luger who just barely beat out Emily for the last spot on the 2010 Olympic team in Vancouver. Despite her disappointment, Emily was an alternate and still cheered on her sister. The experience also inspired her to make a decision – joining the Army National Guard.

“I thought it was a great avenue of opportunity,” Emily told Army News Service. “I knew I wanted to continue being an athlete, but I didn’t want to only be an athlete. I wanted something else to pursue.”

After graduating with honors from the Army’s military police school, she began her military career but continued training for the next big test – the 2014 Sochi Olympic trials. Sadly, she missed out on that bid, too – an outcome that led her to walk away from the sport for a little while.

It wasn’t until she joined the Army’s Warrior Leader Course (now known as the Basic Leader Course) to become a noncommissioned officer that she got back into luge. While at Fort Dix, New Jersey, in the spring of 2014, she realized she’d lost so much weight and muscle mass from not exercising that she failed her Army physical fitness test.

Thankfully, the WLC gave her a workout schedule to follow so she would pass, and that got her back into the mode of training – yet again – to reach her dream of going to the Olympics. She switched up some of her previous routines, and next thing you know, she was at the top of her game again, just in time for the 2017 Olympic trials.

New York Army National Guard Sgt. Emily Sweeney waves to the crowd at the Lake Placid Olympic Center, N.Y., Dec. 16, 2017. Sweeney qualified for her first Olympics and will join fellow Army World Class athletes Taylor Morris and Matt Mortensen in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Army photo by Joe Lacdan

That hard work and determination finally paid off. Emily Sweeney currently ranks 8th in the International Luge Federation women’s singles, and she made the Olympic team!

She, veteran luge competitor Sgt. Matt Mortensen and first-time Olympian Sgt. Taylor Morris have created the trifecta of New York Army National Guard soldiers competing in luge at Pyeongchang. Good luck to all three!

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Disclaimer: The appearance of hyperlinks does not constitute endorsement by the Department of Defense of this website or the information, products or services contained therein. For other than authorized activities such as military exchanges and Morale, Welfare and Recreation sites, the Department of Defense does not exercise any editorial control over the information you may find at these locations. Such links are provided consistent with the stated purpose of this DOD website.

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After 2 Heartbreaks, 3rd Time’s the Charm for Luging Soldier

Get to Know Your Senior Enlisted Leaders

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By Katie Lange
Defense Media Activity

Do you know who your senior enlisted leaders are?

Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Command Sgt. Maj. John W. Troxell (center) and the senior enlisted advisors for the U.S. Combatant Commands brief the media in the Pentagon Press Briefing Room in Washington, D.C., Nov. 28, 2017. DoD photo by U.S. Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith

A lot of enlisted service members actually don’t, but you should since they’re the ones who represent you during meetings with Defense Department leaders, civilians and foreign service leaders.

At the top of the list is the senior enlisted advisor to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The enlisted leaders who serve directly under him are the service senior enlisted advisors and the senior enlisted leaders for the combatant commands.

So, who is who? We’ve compiled a list of them and included their photos and bios.

Army Command Sgt. Major John W. Troxell is the senior enlisted advisor to the chairman, which makes him the senior-most noncommissioned officer in all of the U.S. military. He’s only the third person to hold the position.

Army Command Sgt. Maj. John W. Troxell and other senior enlisted advisors brief the media at the Pentagon. DoD photo by U.S. Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith

Troxell was appointed by the chairman, Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, to serve as an advisor to the chairman and the secretary of defense on all matters involving joint and combined total force integration, utilization, total force fitness, and joint development for enlisted personnel.

Troxell is basically the person who connects the chairman and the secretary of defense to the service senior enlisted advisors (SEAs) and the combatant command senior enlisted leaders (CoCom CSELs), who can connect with all of the force’s enlisted members.  You can follow Troxell on Facebook and Twitter.

The SEAC normally holds the position for the length of the chairman’s tenure, which is normally about four years.

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Naval Officer Earned Medal of Honor, Gave Nation ‘A Lesson in The Brotherhood of Man’

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This blog is part of a weekly series called “Medal of Honor Monday,” in which we’ll highlight one of the 3,500 Medal of Honor recipients who have earned the U.S. military’s highest medal for valor.

From Defense Media Activity

In the military, service members often refer to themselves as “brothers and sisters in arms.”

For Navy Capt. Thomas J. Hudner, a Korean War Medal of Honor recipient, that brotherhood existed across all spectrums, even in a time of deep racial tension. 

Thomas J. Hudner received the Medal of Honor from President Truman at the White House, on April 13, 1951. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Naval Academy

Believed by many to be a man who embodied the ethos of the Navy, Hudner attended the Naval Academy and was commissioned as an officer in 1946. He became an aviation officer in 1949.

On Dec. 4, 1950, Hudner and his squadron were providing air support to American troops during the Korean War battle of the Chosin Reservoir. One of Hudner’s squadron mates, Ensign Jesse L. Brown, the first African-American to be trained as a naval aviator, was shot down by enemy anti-aircraft fire.

Hudner saw that Brown was still alive in the wreckage and, fearing that if he didn’t land, Brown would succumb to his wounds or suffer capture at the hands of the enemy. In an effort to render aid to a fellow aviator, Hudner crash-landed his own aircraft near Brown’s downed plane.

His attempt to save Brown came just two years after the Navy had desegregated. For the rest of his life, Hudner claimed that the reason he landed to save Brown was because Brown, like all service members, would have done the same for him.

Before his death, Hudner described meeting Brown at Quonset Point, Rhode Island.

“I was changing into flight gear, and he came in and nodded, ‘Hello,’” Hudner said of their first encounter at the naval air station.

“I introduced myself, but he made no gesture to shake hands. I think he did not want to embarrass me and have me not shake his hand,” Hudner said. “I think I forced my hand into his.”

Soon after, Hudner and Brown were flying Vought F4U Corsairs, attempting to relieve pressure on American forces seeking to break Chinese Army encirclement at the “Frozen Chosin” Reservoir.

During one run, Brown’s Corsair was hit by ground fire, and he crashed, sending his plane into flames.

Passing overhead, Hudner was shocked to see Brown waving from the cockpit and struggling to get out of the smoldering wreckage. Acting immediately, he crashed his own plane in an attempt to save his friend from the enemy.

He found him conscious, with his head and hands uncovered, exposed to the frigid cold.  Hudner placed his own wool cap it on his friend’s head and wrapped a scarf around his numbed hands. He circled the wreckage of Brown’s plane, packing it with snow to extinguish the flames. 

Ens. Jesse L. Brown was the Navy’s first black pilot. He was killed when his plane crashed due to enemy fire in 1950. Photo courtesy of Naval History and Heritage Command

“We’ve got to figure out a way to get out of here,” Brown told Hudner, but Hudner could not free Brown’s leg, which was stuck between the fuselage and the crushed control panel.

Hudner “returned to his crashed aircraft and radioed other airborne planes, requesting that a helicopter be dispatched with an ax and fire extinguisher. He then remained on the spot despite the continuing danger from enemy action and, with the assistance of the rescue pilot, renewed a desperate but unavailing battle against time, cold, and flames,” according to his Medal of Honor citation.

As nightfall approached and temperatures dropped, Hudner and the helicopter pilot were forced to leave Brown, knowing they’d be unable to fly in the dark. 

Brown was “motionless and slowly dying,” Hudner said, but he told him, “We’ll come back for you.”

Brown died shortly after and would later be posthumously awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

Hudner’s actions were praised by African-American media outlets, with The Norfolk Journal and Guide, a leading black weekly, told the story of Brown and Hudner under the headline, “A Lesson In The Brotherhood Of Man.”

A letter to the editor said, “I never thought a white man would help out a black man like that.”

Ens. Jesse Brown’s widow, Daisy, greets Hudner at his Medal of Honor ceremony in 1951. Photo courtesy of Naval History and Heritage Command

Through the years, Hudner remained a close friend of the Brown family, even paying for Brown’s widow, Daisy, to attend college. In 1973, he joined her for the commissioning of the frigate USS Jesse Brown.

At that ceremony, Hudner said Brown “died in the wreckage of his airplane with courage and unfathomable dignity. He willingly gave his life to tear down barriers to freedom for others.”

In 2013, Jesse Brown’s daughter and granddaughter were in attendance for a ceremony commemorating the beginning of construction on the guided-missile destroyer Thomas J. Hudner. The ship is scheduled to be commissioned in 2018.

Hudner passed away Nov. 13 at his home in Concord, Massachusetts. He was 93.

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Naval Officer Earned Medal of Honor, Gave Nation ‘A Lesson in The Brotherhood of Man’

2017 USO Holiday Tour: Bringing a Piece of Home to Our Deployed Service Members

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By Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joe Dunford

Members of the USO Holiday Tour pose for a photo with airmen assigned to the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing at Al Dhafra Air Base Dec. 23, 2017. DoD photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Dominique A. Pineiro

We just wrapped up this year’s USO Holiday Tour where Ellyn and I had the privilege of spending the holidays with our forward deployed troops in Spain, Poland, Iraq and Afghanistan as well as onboard USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71). We were joined by USO President Dr. J.D. Crouch II and his wife Kristin; my senior enlisted advisor Command Sgt. Maj. John W. Troxell and his wife Sandra; and Medal of Honor recipient Army Capt. (Ret.) Florent ‘Flo’ Groberg and his fiancée Carsen.

While we can’t bring our troops home for the holidays, we can bring a bit of home to them, and that’s what the USO Holiday tour is all about. It’s also a way to thank our service members for their service and show how much we appreciate their sacrifice.

This year’s tour included professional wrestlers Michael “The Miz” Mizanin and Alicia Fox; actor Adam Devine and comedian Iliza Shlesinger; country singer Jerrod Niemann; celebrity chef Robert Irvine and his wife, Gail Kim-Irvine, a professional wrestler, model and actress. All of them volunteered their time and talent to show our service members that America remembers and values their service.

We made 10 stops across two continents in seven days and met with over 6,000 service members. The 11 USO shows included everything from comedy acts to country music performances—and it made an extraordinary impact.

USO Holiday Tour Aboard USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71)

U.S. Navy video by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Janine F. Jones

Each year, the sentiment I hear from deployed service members has been: “You know, for a couple of minutes, I forgot I was here.”  And that sentiment has been echoed by service members for over seven decades.

The Chairman’s USO Tour 2017 visits Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan

Chairmans USO Tour 2017

Service members from all over Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan gathered in a hanger to enjoy the Chairmans USO Tour 2017. Various celebrities joined the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Chairman to bring a little holiday cheer to the men and women that are deployed away from their families during the holiday season.#ChairmansUSOTour2017 #VulturesLeadTheWay #HolidayCheer #Deployed #ServiceUS Forces Afghanistan 455th Air Expeditionary Wing – Bagram Airfield Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff The Joint Staff USCENTAF USO

Posted by 455th Air Expeditionary Wing – Bagram Airfield on Sunday, December 24, 2017

This year marked the 76th anniversary of the USO, an organization that provides vital support to our men and women of the Joint Force wherever they are stationed around the globe.

I can speak from personal experience of the support that I’ve received from the USO throughout my career.  I remember as a captain in 1985 being in surgery on Christmas Eve in Okinawa. I woke up on Christmas Day and standing around my bed were folks with the USO Holiday Tour who were visiting patients in the hospital that day. I can also remember in 1987, while I was on a deployment to the Mediterranean, I heard “Proud To Be An American,” by Lee Greenwood for the first time. He was performing on USS Inchon (LPH 12).

Gen. Dunford reflects on the impact of the USO and its Holiday Tour

Since WWII, the USO has provided a vital connection between service members, their families and the American people. It could be a Marine making a phone call home from Anbar province on a USO card or a soldier in Kandahar who’s reading a story to his young child on a DVD to send back home. It could also be an Airman who is able to go inside the USO center to get Wi-Fi connectivity after working on the flight line at Incirlik Air Base for 15 to 16 hours a day.

As a nation, we’ve been at war for 16 years.  Despite that, our all-volunteer force continues to recruit and retain high quality men and women from all walks of life. There are many reasons for that, but I believe one of the most important is that our young men and women know that what they do is appreciated, and that America has their backs. The USO has played a key role in that regard.

Gen. Dunford Shares Why the USO Holiday Tour Matters to the Joint Force

On behalf of all our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast guardsmen, I’d like to say thank you to the USO and its volunteers.  No matter where we are, thanks for bringing a little piece of home to our service members — wherever they may serve.

Chairman’s New Year’s Message to the Joint Force

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Originally posted here:  

2017 USO Holiday Tour: Bringing a Piece of Home to Our Deployed Service Members

The SITREP: Technology Brings Military Parents Home for Holidays & More

Image 171219-F-XA522-101.jpg

Tech. Sgt. Randle Mitchell, 386th Expeditionary Civil Engineering Squadron assistant chief of fire prevention and Master Sgt. Shalenna Mitchell, 386th Air Expeditionary Wing finance budget analyst, pose with their sons Rashawn, seven, Ryan and Stefan, six months, during a family photo Oct. 22, 2016. (Courtesy photo)

From the military services and around the DoD, here’s your SITREP for Thursday, December 28, 2017.

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Disclaimer: The appearance of hyperlinks does not constitute endorsement by the Department of Defense of this website or the information, products or services contained therein. For other than authorized activities such as military exchanges and Morale, Welfare and Recreation sites, the Department of Defense does not exercise any editorial control over the information you may find at these locations. Such links are povided consistent with the stated purpose of this DOD website.</em

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The SITREP: Technology Brings Military Parents Home for Holidays & More