USO Metro Celebrates Exceptional Troops, Volunteers
(April 18, 2010)
Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the
Joint Chiefs of Staff, congratulates Marine Corps Cpl.
Jeremy L. Stengal after presenting him with the Special
Salute Award at the annual USO Gala in Arlington, Va., April
DoD photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley
ARLINGTON, Va., April 15, 2010 – Military leaders and a host of celebrities came
together here yesterday to pay tribute to outstanding servicemembers and other
special honorees at a star-studded event.
The USO of Metropolitan Washington hosted its 28th annual awards dinner at the
Ritz Carlton Hotel, a night devoted to USO supporters -– military and civilian
-- for their volunteerism and dedication in support of servicemembers and their
“Who needs you the most? We ask ourselves a very simple question,” Sloan Gibson,
USO president, said before an audience of more than 500 guests. “Our mission is
to lift the spirit of America's troops and families, ... our wounded warriors, and
families of the fallen. There is no organization, anywhere, better suited to
take care of our wounded warriors and their families than USO Metro.”
USO Metro assists some 300,000 local servicemembers through fundraising,
celebrity meet-and-greets, concerts and other morale-bolstering programs. The
nonprofit organization also operates airport lounges at several local airports
and military hospitals to give troops a little
comfort and care during their travels and rehabilitation.
Several individuals were recognized at the dinner for their
support of USO outreach programs.
Kevin and Michael Bacon shared the night's top honor and
were recognized for donating their time to troops. They
often visit wounded warriors recovering at Walter Reed Army
Medical Center in Washington, D.C., and at the National
Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.
James L. Jones Jr., national security advisor and retired
Marine Corps general, and L. Tammy Duckworth, assistant
secretary of intergovernmental and public affairs for the
Department of Veterans Affairs and disabled Army pilot,
presented the USO Merit Award to the Bacon brothers.
“Each of the Bacon brothers is an accomplished entertainer,
and they both exemplify the highest values of USO,” Jones
said. “Their commitment to our servicemembers and their
families runs deep. These wonderful brothers have given so
much of their time, energy and talent to visit and lift the
spirit of our troops when they need it most.”
The Bacon brothers said they were surprised when notified
they had been chosen for the award. Visiting troops and
giving their time to the USO, they said, is rewarding in
“We feel like we've done very little to receive this award,”
Kevin said. “We're really struck by the wounded men and
women who served so bravely.”
USO tours help to build a connection between volunteers and
the troops. USO helps to put servicemembers' experiences in
perspective for those who may not fully realize what they've
been through, Michael said.
Army Col. Gordon R. Roberts, recipient of the Col. John Gioia Patriot Award, thanks USO President Elaine Rogers at the annual USO Gala in Arlington, Va., April 14, 2010. DoD photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley
“The history of the organization is amazing,” Michael said. “Kevin
and I are so honored to even be considered as a part of what [USO]
gives back to not only our military service people, but our entire
“I hope that we are worthy of this award and can continue to
contribute in our own small way through our music and performing and
visiting people who are hurt,” he added.
While much of the evening recognized USO efforts in support of
recovering servicemembers, it's important not to forget those who
are currently deployed throughout the world, said Navy Adm. Mike
Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
“I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that there were some 210,000
[troops] serving as we speak around the world, many in harm's way,”
the admiral said. “They give us the opportunity to celebrate as we
have tonight. ... We should never forget, and keep them in our hearts
Besides the Bacon brothers, the list of celebrity USO supporters attending
last night included television personality and U.S. Naval Academy graduate
Montel Williams, National Football League Hall of Fame offensive lineman
Anthony Munoz, Miss American 2010 Caressa Cameron and author and
professional wrestler Mick Foley.
Air Force Secretary Michael B. Donley, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of
Staff Marine Corps Gen. James E. Cartwright, Coast Guard Commandant Adm.
Thad W. Allen and Sgt. Maj. of the Army Kenneth O. Preston also attended,
and the 82nd Airborne Division All American Chorus performed.
Other awards and recognitions included:
Army Col. Gordon R. Roberts, commander of
the Medical Center Brigade at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, received
the John Gioia Patriot Award. Roberts is a regular USO volunteer, whose
military career spans more than 40 years. He's also the only Medal of
Honor recipient serving on active duty.
The Professional Golfers
Association Tour received the Legacy of Hope award, named for long-time
USO supporter Bob Hope. The PGA Tour was recognized for its Birdies for
the Brave program, which raises money for military charities.
Army National Guard Master Sgt.
Robert Sutherland received the USO Metro Special Salute. Sutherland is a
Vietnam War veteran who was wounded by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan.
Army 1st Lt. Mark Wise received the
USO Metro Special Salute. Wise was recognized for heroic actions under
fire in Afghanistan.
Marine Corps Cpl. Jeremy Stengel received the USO Metro Special Salute.
Stengel was recognized for volunteer service to the USO. He was injured
by a roadside bomb in Iraq.
Navy Petty Officer 1st Class David
F. Brown received the USO Metro Special Salute. Brown was injured by an
indirect-fire attack in Afghanistan.
Air Force Staff Sgt. David Flowers
received the USO Metro Special Salute. Flowers stepped on an enemy land
mine in Afghanistan.
- Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Justin Munk received the
USO Metro Special Salute for his actions as part of relief efforts in
support of earthquake-ravaged Haiti.
Another highlight of the night was the announcement of plans to build two
new USO centers. A new center at the new Walter Reed National Military
Medical Center will break ground this summer in Bethesda. A new facility at
Fort Belvoir, Va., also is in the works, Elaine Rogers, USO Metro president
Both are expected to be complete, up and running by September 2011, Rogers
said. The new centers will help to expand USO services to wounded warriors
recovering at area military hospitals, she said.
photos by Army SFC Michael J. Carden
American Forces Press Service
Comment on this article