Results tagged ‘ USO Holiday Tour ’

A Wonderful Week of Giving

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Last week, volunteers from across the Washington Nationals organization participated in #NatsWeekOfGiving, an initiative to give back in our community during the holiday season, while encouraging our fans to do the same.

Adam LaRoche kicked things off by joining the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, on a USO Holiday Tour overseas. Denard Span and Ross Detwiler did their part here in D.C.,  visiting with scholar-athletes from the Nationals Youth Baseball Academy, joining the Washington Redskins at the Darrell Green Foundation’s annual Christmas party and partnering with the Hope for Henry Foundation on a Winter Wonderland Holiday party for pediatric patients at The Lombardi Cancer Center at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital.

Nationals employees teamed up with 106.7 The Fan personalities for the remainder of the week. The team worked with John “Cakes” Auville, John-Paul “JP” Flaim and Danny Rouhier to distribute toys to military families for Project USO Elf,  and welcomed Holden Kushner to their group to lay wreaths at Arlington National Cemetery with Wreaths Across America.

Thanks to all who helped make this week a great success!

Give With Us

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by Noah Frank

The #NatsWeekOfGiving has been chock-full of events both in the Washington D.C. community and around the world. From Denard Span and Ross Detwiler’s recent visit to The District, to Adam LaRoche embarking on the Chairman’s USO Holiday Tour, every day has brought new chances to give back.

Don’t forget to show us how you are pitching in this holiday season for the chance to win a Denard Span autographed jersey or an Adam LaRoche signed ball. To enter the contest, simply submit a photo on Twitter of what you are doing to give back with the hashtag #NatsWeekOfGiving by 11:59 p.m. on Saturday, December 14. See complete contest rules here.

With that in mind, here’s a look back at the week so far, along with details of how you can get involved this weekend.

Monday:

Span and Detwiler arrived in Washington and headed straight to the nearly completed Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy for a tour of the facility. From there, it was off to Kimball Elementary – the current home of academic programming for the Academy until the building is finished in January – where the two interacted with the first class of Academy scholar-athletes. They answered questions about baseball and their lives off the field, and signed autographs for the children.

From there, they were off to the Darrell Green Youth Life Foundation’s 24th Annual Christmas with the Redskins Party. Academy participants Geornae, 10, and Delonte, 9, were Span and Detwiler’s special guests at the event.  The players spent the evening with them, eating dinner, playing games and opening Christmas presents.

Tuesday:

A little snow didn’t slow Detwiler and Span down as they made their way to MedStar Georgetown Hospital’s Lombardi Cancer Center to meet with pediatric patients in conjunction with the Hope for Henry Foundation. They were joined by Screech as they decorated an amazing, intricate Nationals Park gingerbread house, designed Nats ornaments and took pictures and signed autographs for the children. The visit also included personal room visits for those unable to participate in the larger group activities.

Wednesday:

LaRoche checked in with his first dispatch from the USO Holiday Tour, which had taken him to Greece. Already one of the team’s most involved players when it comes to military stationed in the D.C. area, LaRoche has been a perfect fit for such an adventure.

“I’ve never been around so many people who genuinely appreciate us being here,” he said in a recent email from abroad. “We continue to try to make it clear with our troops that we’re getting more out of this than we think they are.”

Meanwhile, back at home, Nationals staff took part in Project USO Elf  and helped distribute holiday gifts to military families. They were joined by Racing President Bill, as well at John “Cakes” Auville, John-Paul “JP” Flaim and Danny Rouhier, who helped gift-wrap and deliver donated presents.

You can still take part in the #NatsWeekOfGiving by taking part in Wreaths Across America’s wreath laying event at  Arlington National Cemetery on Saturday.  Nationals front office staff along with 106.7’s Holden Kushner will be at the event along with thousands of other volunteers. This special day pays tribute to all who lost their lives in service to our country. If you are unable to make it but would like to donate to the cause, you can do so before midnight tonight. Sponsors for wreaths are sill needed and you can contribute at www.wreathsacrossamerica.org.  You can keep up with the organization on Twitter @WreathsAcross.

Thanks to all of you who have joined us thus far. It’s not too late to get in the spirit of the #NatsWeekOfGiving!

Adam LaRoche Checks In from 2013 Chairman USO Holiday Tour

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Adam LaRoche sent his first dispatch back from the 2013 Chairman USO Holiday Tour on Monday, and the Washington Nationals’ first baseman has been thrilled with the experience thus far.

“It couldn’t have gone better so far,” LaRoche wrote in an e-mail, detailing a few of the activities with which the group kicked off their tour.

Nationals first baseman Adam LaRoche tosses souvenir baseballs to servicemen and women during a USO tour stop in Greece as part of the 2013 Chairman USO Holiday tour. (Mike Clifton/USO)

Nationals first baseman Adam LaRoche tosses souvenir baseballs to servicemen and women during a stop in Greece. (Mike Clifton/USO)

The USO tour, led by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey, includes not only LaRoche, but Grammy Award-winning singer/songwriter Bridget Kelly, former New England Patriots offensive tackle and three-time Super Bowl champion Matt Light, actor/comedian Thomas “Nephew Tommy” Miles, stars of A&E’s hit reality show “Duck Dynasty” Jep and Willie Robertson and former correspondent on NBC’s “The Voice” Alison Haislip.

Over the course of the seven-day USO tour, the group will visit four countries and five military venues. So far, that has included seeing sailors stationed at Naval Support Activity Souda Bay and aboard the USS Stout, a missile destroyer, in Greece as well as meeting Marines in Athens; and flying to Afghanistan, to spend time with troops at Bagram Air Base.

“With the holidays coming up, you can really tell these guys appreciate us being here,” LaRoche wrote of the humbling experience in an e-mail. “Personally, I feel that I’m getting more out of our interactions than they [the troops] are.”

For more updates from LaRoche and his experiences on the 2013 Chairman USO Holiday Tour as they become available, check back right here on the Curly W Live blog.

Adam LaRoche and the 2013 USO Holiday Tour

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Ross & Craig’s USO Tour – Show On The Road

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Earlier this offseason, General Martin Dempsey – Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff – invited Nationals pitchers Ross Detwiler and Craig Stammen on the annual USO holiday tour. While abroad, Detwiler and Stammen have sent us daily journal entries detailing the events of their trip. In the interest of security, these updates – including dates and locations – are delayed several days before their release.

From: Craig Stammen | Dec 13, 2012

The morning began at 6:45 a.m. down in the lobby. Today we would be going on an aircraft carrier to do our first show. The USS John C. Stennis would be our destination in the middle of the Persian Gulf, 50 miles off the coast of Iran. Now it’s about to get real! The next 12-15 hours would be some of the most memorable of my life.

From left to right: Stammen, Caps forward Matt Hendricks, Iliza Shlesinger, Kellie Pickler and Detwiler.

From left to right: Stammen, Caps forward Matt Hendricks, Iliza Shlesinger, Kellie Pickler and Detwiler.

We boarded the COD in full chest and headgear. We would be flying approximately 40 minutes before landing on the deck of the carrier, with only a cable to stop us, just like the fighter jets. We were warned that this would be quite the experience, but that the takeoff when we left would be more exhilarating. The landing turned out to be an indescribable experience. We landed so quickly after having been going so fast, I have really no idea what I felt or what had even happened. All I know is we were on an aircraft carrier.

We were paraded around the entire ship by all of the highest-ranking naval officers on the boat. They took us up to the Captain’s chair to watch the F-18s take off and land. This was the coolest thing I think I’ve ever watched in person – yes, even better than a Notre Dame football game. Later, we were allowed to move outside to watch more planes land. Being outside was an even crazier experience. As the plane landed and came to a stop via the cable, the noise and power of the plane would shake your body to the bone. It felt like your insides were moving!

After this exhilarating experience we were shown several other parts of the ship as we neared our first show! Our job for the show was to bridge the gap between the comedian and the musician. Sweeeeeet! What were we going to do, play catch with each other? The show turned out great. There were about 3,000 crew able to attend the show, and some of them were Nats fans! We talked for about 10 minutes and threw some signed souvenirs into the crowd.  Success on the first day!

Stammen and Detwiler check out the cockpit of a jet aboard the USS Stennis.

Stammen and Detwiler check out the cockpit of a jet aboard the USS Stennis.

Iliza was extremely funny and the crew loved her. Kellie did her thing as well. Next we took a few pictures and signed autographs and got to know some of the troops a little better. They were in such high spirits and even though I don’t think many of them knew who I was, they were very appreciative of us being there. What an honor to be able to do the things I did today. As things wrapped up, we said our final thank you’s, goodbyes, and good lucks. It was now time to be catapulted off the ship!

We were warned for a few days straight how nuts this would be. It was an adrenaline rush like no other. After we were in the air, I immediately wanted to do it again – how selfish! Sergeant Major Battaglia would explain to us that many people who had been in the armed forces for 30+ years have never been able to land and take off from a carrier like we just did. Well, all I can say is that’s another thing off my bucket list, even though, before this trip, I never thought it would have been on my bucket list to begin with! I’m running out of superlatives to describe this, but wow!

Our next stop was the naval base in Bahrain. We were given a tour of the facilities, watched the General address and answer questions for the troops stationed there, and were given a bomb dog demonstration.  A dog named Cherry was the most impressive canine we saw. Big, strong and smart – a beautiful animal helping protect the USA.

We finished the day by taking photos with a lot of families on the base. A few crazy Nats fans actually knew who we were! Kellie stole the show being at the center of all the pics! The day was finally over and I was done – literally I had no energy left. However, a two-hour power nap got me ready for dinner with the “talent,” minus Kellie. By now, we were all comfortable with each other and some of us had nicknames. We had Thickness and Cindy Lou Who leading our laughs for the night!

All in all, we’ve not only been enjoying once-in-a-lifetime experiences, but we’ve also been building great friendships along the way. I can’t wait to see what’s next…

Ross & Craig’s USO Tour – Q&A With Det

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Earlier this offseason, General Martin Dempsey – Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff – invited Nationals pitchers Ross Detwiler and Craig Stammen on the annual USO holiday tour. While abroad, Detwiler and Stammen have sent us daily journal entries detailing the events of their trip. In the interest of security, these updates – including dates and locations – are delayed several days before their release.

Curly W Live: There were a lot of unknowns heading into your trip. How did the journey start?

Ross Detwiler: We were headed to the Air Force base and I had no idea what to expect. I knew we were going to be flying on the Blues and Whites, but other than that, I really had no expectations. We had a 6.5-hour plane ride over to Ireland where we stopped to refuel and had some breakfast. We got to go to the duty free shop there and then we got back on the plane another for another 6.5 hours to Bahrain.

CWL: When did they first make you aware of your destination?

RD: Once we were on the plane they told us we were going to Bahrain. That’s when we knew where our first stop was.

Detwiler poses with sailors aboard the USS Stenis.

Detwiler poses with sailors aboard the USS Stenis.

CWL: Describe your transportation – we hear it’s the same type of plane as Air Force Two?

RD: I actually haven’t seen the front of the plane yet, where most of the military travels, but there’s a big office right in the middle, which is General Dempsey’s quarters. In the back, there are two tables set up with two seats on either side of the table, which is where the higher-ranking officials sit – it’s like a little war room for them. Then there is a partition, and that’s where we’re sitting. We have two seats on either side and I’ve been snuggled up next to Stammen so far (laughing). We had assigned seating when we got on.

CWL: You’ve got country musician Kelly Pickler on this trip, who is the only entertainer who has done USO tours in the past. As the veteran of the group, has she given you any pointers?

RD: Each trip goes to different countries and different bases, so that’s what makes it different for her (Pickler), but she kind of told us what to expect. She’s really been a big help, because going in we had no idea what to expect, we didn’t know what the morale of the troops was going to be. We’re here to help that, but you don’t know how good or how bad it is. The two stops we’ve had so far, the morale’s been great, they’ve been really into the shows, and it’s actually been a whole lot of fun.

CWL: So what exactly does one of your shows entail?

RD: Our comedian, Iliza Shlesinger, goes first. She’s hilarious – she goes for about 20-25 minutes and the troops are just cracking up the whole time she’s up there, having a great time. And then Craig, Matt Hendricks and I get up there and we just thank them for what they’re going through here. It’s tough to know what to say to them, because they’re making the ultimate sacrifice to let us live the lives that we’re living. So we kind of take the show down a little bit, then Kellie comes on for the finish. It’s just good to be able to get up there and say thanks to that group of people, to shake their hands, take pictures and sign autographs afterward.

Detwiler and Stammen land on the USS Stennis.

Detwiler and Stammen land on the USS Stennis.

CWL: What’s your role in the show?

RD: We don’t have much time, we’re just going out there to say thank you, tell a personal story or two. They’re not there to see us, they’re there to see the performers do their job. They can’t really see us play a hockey game or a baseball game or anything.

CWL: Have you found that a lot of the troops recognize you?

RD: There’s a number of people from D.C. out here who are huge Nationals fans. They follow as much as they can. They can’t really watch on TV, but they follow us on the internet. It’s just kind of tough. They’re doing their job here, and with the time difference and all that, they can only follow online. But they are excited to follow us as a nice getaway from their job.

CWL: You left your honeymoon in Hawaii early to be here. How’s your new bride holding up with you away?

RD: She’s off in 80-degree weather and we’re stuck here in negative 10 degrees (laughing). She’s kept up with some emails to let me know how she’s doing, but it’s tough, because we can’t really tell her where we are. It’s got to be kind of nerve-racking for her to not know where I am when I’m halfway around the world.

CWL: What has been the most memorable moment of the trip so far?

RD: The first stop at the aircraft carrier off the coast of Bahrain. I didn’t know what to expect. The landing on an aircraft carrier is just unbelievable. We got to see the jets take off as they went on their training missions. You know that they take off, but once you see it, it’s incredible how little room they have. They go from 0-180 miles an hour in less than two seconds, then they’re off the flight deck and over the ocean. And that led into our first show, when we had no idea what to expect. We’re on the second deck of this aircraft carrier and the place is just packed. Thankfully, once Iliza went out there and had everyone rolling around laughing it took away some of the nervousness. We knew the morale was high, especially once Kellie went up there and everybody was singing along with her songs.

Ross & Craig’s USO Tour – Taking Off

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Earlier this offseason, General Martin Dempsey – Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff – invited Nationals pitchers Ross Detwiler and Craig Stammen on the annual USO holiday tour. While abroad, Detwiler and Stammen have sent us daily journal entries detailing the events of their trip. In the interest of security, these updates – including dates and locations – are delayed several days before their release.

From: Craig Stammen | Dec 11, 2012

We arrived in D.C. at 8:30 a.m. after being in Las Vegas, NV less than 24 hours earlier. The USO hooked it up with a drive to pick us up and a suite just for the afternoon at the Ritz. Upon arrival, I worked out at Nationals Park and then proceeded to do several interviews about the upcoming tour. It was actually pretty fun to tell the media that we had no idea what, when, or how we were going to get to our destinations. It was also an odd feeling to not know exactly where we were going to go. But soon enough, we would find out!

Stammen with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Martin Dempsey.

Stammen with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Martin Dempsey.

Next stop was back to the Ritz to prepare our bags for our travel to Andrews Air Force Base where we would be flying out of the country on the Blues and Whites! Pretty darn exciting to be on a plane of that stature. This was definitely going to be an unforgettable experience getting to do some things most civilians do not get to do.

We took off from Andrews right around 7:30 p.m. The General made sure to come back to the plane where we were sitting to start some small talk to and get us acclimated to traveling with him and his traveling party. It would be a 6.5-hour trip to Shannon, Ireland. This was ample time to get to know the rest of the USO “talent,” as we’ve been dubbed. Matt Hendricks, Iliza Shlesinger and Kellie Pickler along with my teammate and good friend Ross Detwiler.

Dec 12, 2012

We arrived in Ireland around 6 a.m. local time. According to the Chairman’s staff, this was a good chance to hit the Irish Pub inside the airport. We had about an hour and a half to kill as the plane refueled. I was informed by my fiancé to take advantage of every new country I visited. I had never been outside of North America until now. For people from my hometown, being 28 and having never left the country was not uncommon, and I definitely felt like the least experienced traveler on this flight! So I saddled up to the pub and got my self a freshly baked scone and a nice, cold Guinness. Surprisingly, both went down smoothly. Now, back on the plane.

The USO holiday tour is Stammen's first-ever trip overseas.

The USO holiday tour is Stammen’s first-ever trip overseas.

Six and a half restless hours later and we were in Bahrain, right in the center of the Middle East. I had no idea what to expect. My initial thoughts were that we were going to a very poor country where I’d probably have to sleep in a bed way too small for me! However, I was greatly surprised. We arrived at the Gulf Hotel in downtown Bahrain. My room was amazing – definitely Five-Star! I am easily satisfied, but this place was extremely nice.

Next on our agenda was a dinner with General Dempsey and his wife. They chose a Thai restaurant inside the hotel. I’m not a big fan of Thai, mainly because I’ve only had it, maybe, twice! Time to expand my horizons – and it turned out to be a great dinner. The general and his wife were awesome. We later retreated to the hotel pub. At this point I was dog tired, but the conversation I was able to have with the chairman, his wife, and Detwiler was worth any sleep deprivation. We talked about what to expect on the tour and what the troops expected from us. Not much, except our thanks and time, according to the General. The conversation moved more personal and the advice General Dempsey gave me and Ross will stay with us for forever! We didn’t talk about how to be a better baseball player, but we chatted about our future, our goals, and how we were raised. Very cool, and I tried to soak it all in.

Tour of Duty

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Earlier this week, Craig Stammen and Ross Detwiler departed on a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Personally invited by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Martin Dempsey, the two Nationals pitchers joined Capitals forward Matt Hendricks, country music singer Kellie Pickler and actor/comedian Iliza Shlesinger on a four-stop, seven-day USO holiday tour, visiting American troops overseas.

OnStageDue to the national security protocols involved in such a journey, not even the players themselves knew where they were headed as they took off to head overseas. All they were told was to pack for temperatures ranging from below zero to summer warmth in the 80s or 90s.

As exciting as the prospect of such a journey made the players, there was nevertheless some nervousness associated with heading into war-torn areas, not even knowing exactly what part of the world they would be visiting. One can only imagine how much that must have been amplified for Stammen, who had never been overseas before the tour. Detwiler, meanwhile, cut short his honeymoon in Hawaii to go on the trip.

Be sure to follow @Nationals, @CStammen35, @NationalDet and @the_USO on Twitter for updates from the tour as they become available.

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