As the world combats COVID-19, the USO has quickly mobilized to transition from traditional USO tours to USO military virtual programming to provide talent engagements for troops and military families.
Last month, in response to COVID-19, the USO suspended its trademark live celebrity tours, which have entertained millions of service members stationed around the globe for nearly 80 years.
“The USO has always been by the side of our military and their families, and COVID-19 does not change this,” said Alan Reyes, USO chief operating officer. “Our mission of connection is more critical than ever before. With the help of military supporters, the entertainment industry and USO partners, we are providing virtual engagements and programming to boost morale during the pandemic. Together, we are expressing our nation’s gratitude for all that the military community is doing to help protect us and reduce the spread of COVID-19.”
As part of USO military virtual programming, celebrities are conducting virtual base visits and making one-on-one calls with service members. New programming also includes pre-screening events, online workshops, classes, Q&As and digital subscriptions for service members and military families. Scheduled to run through June, this programming will be hosted by Chris Jacobs from the Discovery family of networks.
David Boreanaz of CBS’s “SEAL Team” participated in video calls with service members at USO Al Asad in Iraq, Grammy award-winning musicians, The Chainsmokers conducted a livestream Q&A with service members in Southwest Asia and comedian Iliza Shlesinger spoke with service members across USO West and Hawaii about her new Netflix series “The Iliza Shlesinger Sketch Show.” Most recently, actor Miles Teller and director Joseph Kosinski participated in a livestream Q&A with service members in Bahrain. Culinary icon Martha Stewart also hosted a cookie decorating session from her own kitchen for military families on Facebook Live in support of Month of the Military Child. Upcoming programming will include engagements with Ciara, Trace Adkins, Ne-Yo, Sarah Silverman, Craig Robinson and more.
Gaming is also a focus, and a USO channel will launch soon on Twitch to allow NBA and NFL athletes to livestream and play video games virtually with service members around the world. Recent USO tour veterans are also recording video messages of thanks and support that will be shared with the military communities and installations they visited.
Verizon Media is donating use of its digital media streaming platform to help the USO deliver its iconic talent engagements virtually. The streaming platform will also be used to share USO programming for military spouses and families that have transitioned to virtual engagements during COVID-19.
“Verizon Media is proud to support the USO with a world-class streaming delivery platform,” said Guru Gowrappan, CEO, Verizon Media. “During this global pandemic, a few hours of entertainment can make a difference to our brave service members who are putting themselves in harm’s way.”
Verizon has also made an additional donation toward the USO’s Combat COVID-19 efforts which will support USO programs and services like USO care packages. These donations build on Verizon Media’s multi-year relationship with the USO and efforts from Verizon Media’s VALOR group. VALOR, Veterans & Advocates Leading Organizations Responsibly, supports veterans, their families and military communities globally by helping them transition to the civilian workforce. Verizon Media supported the World’s Biggest USO Tour in 2018 by providing virtual reality tours of USO centers and made in-kind media donations to the USO in 2019.