USO Metro Salutes Exceptional Troops, Volunteers
(March 28, 2009)
From left: Army Spc. Brent Hendricks, Air Force Tech. Sgt. Israel
Del Toro, Army Sgt. Kurtis Dellicker, and Army Sgt. Jason Shepperly
listen as Comedian Al Franken shares a few words about his
commitment to the United Service Organization during the USO-Metro
27th Annual Awards dinner at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Arlington,
Va., March 25, 2009. The wounded warriors had just presented the USO-Metro
Merit Award to Franken for his support to the troops through
entertaining visits to combat zones and military hospitals
ARLINGTON, Va., March 26, 2009
Organizations honored members of the U.S. military and those who support them
during an event held here last night that recognized selfless service and
The United Service Organizations of
Metropolitan Washington, or USO-Metro for short, held its 27th annual awards
dinner at the Ritz Carlton Hotel. The organization assists some 300,000 local
troops and families.
“I love this event,” Academy Award-winning actress Renee Zellweger said. “It is
so special to have been invited here tonight to dine in honor of our military
and in celebrating the work that the USO of Metropolitan Washington does.”
Zellweger gave tribute to wounded warriors
and their families, sharing her experiences of visits she's
made to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington and
the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., over the
last year. She recognized four wounded warriors currently
recovering from injuries and shared their stories with an
audience of more than 300 military members and supporters.
“I've met a lot of true heroes through the USO,” she said.
“The hardest road the soldiers walk is the one he or she
faces after the battle is over. It's inspiring, but it's
extraordinarily moving. I have to say, it's tremendously
Army Sgt. Jason Shepperly, a combat medic and one of the
wounded warriors introduced by Zellweger, had the
opportunity to present the evening's top honor. The USO-Metro
Merit Award was presented to comedian-politician Al Franken
for his seven overseas tours to visit deployed troops and
numerous volunteer hours he's given to wounded warriors at
local military hospitals.
Shepperly was wounded in Mosul, Iraq, last year and is
recovering from leg injuries at Walter Reed, where he first
met Franken and Zellweger as well as other celebrities and
entertainers, he said.
“[Wounded warriors] all have stories about how the USO has
boosted our spirits from meeting entertainers to check out
football or baseball games,” Shepperly said. “In my
experience, it's not just the injury that gets to you, it's
also the boredom of being stuck in a hospital bed day after
day. The USO gives us something to look forward to.”
Shepperly recalled Franken's most recent visit to Walter
Reed, describing the bond Shepperly and other wounded troops
had with him, calling Franken “just one of the guys.”
“I remember sitting in the hospital room cracking jokes and
getting a laugh with one of the funniest guys I've ever had
the pleasure of meeting,” Shepperly said. “We could tell
that he cared, and we had fun.
“I'm truly honored to present the man who has entertained
the troops in the field and in the hospital, a man who has
given up holidays with his family, spent time in heavy body
armor stomping through the sand just to be there for the
soldiers,” he continued.
Franken thanked Shepperly and the USO-Metro “for making
entertaining and my experience with the USO the most
rewarding thing I've ever done.”
Franken recalled his first experience visiting wounded
troops, telling the audience of how nervous he was. Thoughts
of “how am I going to cheer up a guy who is in danger of
losing his leg or has traumatic brain injury or is an
amputee.” raced through his mind, he said.
His anxiety soon went away, he added, as he realized the
resilience and positive attitudes the troops carried with
“What you learn, of course, is that they cheer you up, and
that you leave with more than what you came with,” he said.
Among Franken and Zellweger, the list of celebrity USO
supporters attending last night were book author and
professional wrestler Mick Foley, actress and model Leann
Tweeden, Miss American 2009 Katie Stam and several National
Football League former players. Also, 34 of the 98 living
Medal of Honor recipients were in attendance and were
honored with a performance by singing trio, The American
Army Sgt. 1st Class (retired) Carlo De
Porto received the Col. John Gioia Patriot Award for more
than 32 years of military service, spanning from World War
II to the Vietnam War. He's spent more than 50 years and
logged more than 10,000 volunteer hours with the USO. At 86,
he still volunteers every Thursday at the
Baltimore-Washington International Airport USO.
The NFL Alumni Association was awarded the Legacy
of Hope Award for the countless volunteer hours former NFL players
have dedicated to visiting wounded and deployed servicemembers all
over the world.
The NFL Alumni Association remains actively involved
with USO-Metro fundraisers and programs.
President and CEO of the National Football League Alumni Office,
Frank Krauser, and fellow NFL alumni accept the Legacy of Hope
Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Christopher Barrows received
a USO-Metro Special Salute for deploying a Coast Guard cutter to the
Arabian Gulf in Iraqi water in April 2003, which was the first
combat deployment by the U.S. Coast Guard since the Vietnam War.
received the Bronze Star Medal for his Service.
Photo show U.S. Coast Guard Commandant Thad Allen congratulates U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Christopher Barrows, left, after being
presented with a Special Salute award.
Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Luis E. Fronseca, Jr.
received a USO-Metro Special Salute for rescuing injured Marines
from a burning amphibious assault vehicle in April 2003 Baghdad.
Fronseca's vehicle, where he was treating casualties, was eventually
hit with enemy fire. He organized a litter team to hand-carry the
casualties to safety. All of his casualties survived.
the Navy Cross for his actions.
Photo shows Chief
of Naval Operations U.S. Navy Adm. Gary Roughead, right,
congratulates U.S Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Luis E. Fronseca,
Jr., left, for receiving a United Service Organizations of
Metropolitan Washington Special Salute award.
Marine Staff Sgt. Joseph Perez received a USO-Metro
Special Salute for leading a charge to destroy an Iraqi position
April 2003 in Baghdad. In an
engagement later in the day, he sustained gunshot wounds to his
torso and shoulders, but continued to direct his squad to overrun
another Iraqi position.
He received the Navy Cross for his actions.
Photo shows U.S.
Marine Lt. Gen. Duane Thiessen, right, the deputy commandant of the
Marine Corps for programs and resources, presenting U.S. Marine
Staff Sgt. Joseph Perez, left, with a United Service Organizations
of Metropolitan Washington Special Salute award.
Army Staff Sgt. Christopher Waiters received a USO-Metro
Special Salute for rescuing fellow soldiers from a flame-engulfed
Bradley Fighting Vehicle in the midst of enemy fire in Diyala
province, Iraq, in April 2007. He shot his way through more than 100
meters of enemy fire, killing two insurgents and eventually pulling
the soldiers out of the vehicle and to safety.
He was awarded the
Distinguished Service Cross for his actions.
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Christopher Waiters
receiving a United Service Organizations of Metropolitan Washington
Special Salute award.
Air Force Staff Sgt. Zachary Rhyner received a USO-Metro
Special Salute for successfully calling in air strikes after his
team of Army Special Forces soldiers and Afghan troops were ambushed
by more 200 enemy fighters April 2008 in Afghanistan. He suffered bullet wounds to his leg but still
managed to alternate between returning fire and calling in air
support for more than 6 hours.
He was awarded the Air Force Cross
for his actions.
Photo shows U.S. Air
Force Gen. Norton A. Schwartz, Air Force chief of staff, presents
U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Zachary Rhyner, left, with a United
Service Organizations of Metropolitan Washington Special Salute
photos by Army Staff Sgt. Michael J. Carden
American Forces Press Service
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