ARLINGTON, Va. (WUSA9/USO-Metro) --- The USO of Metropolitan Washington-Baltimore (USO-Metro) honored its local military families at its 32nd Annual Awards Dinner, March 31, 2014.
This year's dinner celebrated the opening of the USO Warrior and Family Center at Bethesda, Md. This state-of-the-art USO Center will provide a "home-away-from-home" for the nation's wounded, ill and injured active duty service members and Reserve and National Guard troops, as well as their families and caregivers.
Elaine Rogers, president of USO-Metro:
"As we pay tribute to our service members, we are reminded of the extreme sacrifices military families make to ensure our freedom and security...The new facility, located at the Naval Support Activity Bethesda, home of Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, will be a place of respite and recreation, providing a peaceful environment to bring families together and an opportunity to prepare for a happy and fulfilling life ahead."
The evening focused on Celebrating Our Moments Together. Outstanding individuals from each branch of the service were honored along with people who support our nation's service members and their families.
The sold-out gala raised $685,000 for USO-Metro. The funds will support and enhance USO-Metro's programs and services, including celebrity visits to local military hospitals, art and music programs, and emergency support for active duty troops facing financial hardship. (SEE VIDEO ABOVE of the USO CENTER)
Senior government and military leaders, celebrities and business/community leaders joined military families inside the Renaissance Arlington Capital View Hotel in Crystal City.
Chef Robert Irvine was honored with the USO-Metro Merit Award, presented by Gary Sinise; The American Military Spouses Choir received the Legacy of Hope Award, and the Next Generation of Hope Award went to music prodigy Ethan Bortnick.
This year's Colonel John Gioia Patriot Award was presented to Don Blanchard, the father of fallen Capt. Aaron R. Blanchard (USA). Don teamed up with the USO to create A Father's Tribute Ride, during which he rode his motorcycle to all four corners of the country, honoring his son and raising money to help military nonprofit organizations.