Hohenfels Soldier Reunites with Family at USO + NFL Salute to Service Showdown

By Brittany Laursen

A core focus of the USO is fostering and facilitating connections. This includes bringing together service members with their loved ones, connecting military spouses and children with other families, and fostering connections among service members to cultivate new friendships. The USO accomplishes this by offering Wi-Fi access in its centers, organizing diverse events that foster connections, such as Storytime or Coffee Connections and now, through the addition of USO Gaming.

An exciting, annual event for the USO Gaming team is the NFL Salute to Service Showdown, featuring EA’s Madden. Following a qualifying and playoff round, the top eight players are flown to Arlington, Texas to play the final round live at Cowboys Stadium. Notably, this year marked the inaugural inclusion of service members stationed overseas in Europe, the Middle East, Africa (EMEA) and the Indo-Pacific, expanding the reach and excitement of the competition. The winner from USO EMEA this year was Trevor Bethke, a U.S. Army Military Police stationed in Hohenfels, Germany, whose unexpected entry into this gaming competition created lifelong memories.

Trevor’s love for gaming began in the heartland of Nebraska, where bonding with his father over Madden football games became a cherished tradition.

“I had no idea about the tournament until a friend showed me a picture. I thought, why not give it a shot?” Trevor recalled. His journey began with a second-place finish in the first qualifying round, igniting a competitive fire that drove him to secure victory the second round.

But the tournament wasn’t just about Madden supremacy - it became a gateway to an experience beyond Trevor’s wildest dreams. From the qualifying rounds to the finals in Arlington, Trevor found himself in uncharted territory.

“I’ve never done anything like this – I just play in my off time. I just happen to be a huge football fan and know football, so I’m naturally good at Madden. I’ve never played competitively,” said Trevor.

Arlington, with its iconic Cowboys stadium, provided the backdrop for an immersive gaming experience. The atmosphere was electric and the level of competition was fierce. Yet Trevor, a self-proclaimed “off-time gamer,” reveled in the camaraderie and surprises. The Dallas Cowboys gave all the competitors a VIP tour of their facilities and Trevor found himself on the field, meeting Medal of Honor recipient, Kyle Carpenter.

The real magic, however, happened beyond the gaming console. The trip to Texas meant a reunion with his family after two long years. Navigating a passport mishap and a race against time, Trevor barely made it onto the plane. The emotional airport reunion with his parents was a blend of relief and joy.

“My family was shocked that I was flying to the States. They were so happy to see me. My mom was relieved,” Trevor shared.

As Trevor’s mother, Jennifer, puts it, the journey was a rollercoaster for her as well. The worries and sleepless nights that come with having children in the military were momentarily replaced by the joy of seeing her son and holding him close. For Jennifer, who once urged her son to put down the video games and go outside, witnessing how gaming brought her son home was nothing short of amazing.

The USO’s impact extended across continents as Trevor’s brother, stationed in Kuwait, tuned in to watch the competition live. Even Trevor’s friends from his unit watched him compete live at the USO in Hohenfels.

“They had a watch party at Albertshof – my platoon was watching me. They were upset that I lost,” Trevor chuckled.

Reflecting on the competition, Trevor highlighted the unexpected rewards, even though he didn’t clinch the grand prize. “I got to see my parents and my family. This was one of the coolest experiences I’ve ever had.” Participating in the USO gaming competition didn’t just elevate Trevor’s gaming status - it had a positive effect on his leadership skills as well.

“This experience helped me out and has made me a better public speaker – doing constant interviews and talking to people that do this for a living,” he said.

As he looks ahead, Trevor is determined in his future gaming goals. “I’m going back next year. I may not be representing EMEA, but I’m winning.”

The role of gaming in Trevor’s life isn’t just about competition; it’s a lifeline connecting him with loved ones. He expressed his gratitude to the USO by saying,

Honestly, I can’t thank the USO enough for the opportunity they gave not only to me, but to my family. This was an awesome experience.

Jennifer highlighted the importance of organizations like the USO, emphasizing how they treat service members like family. As a mother, she found solace in the knowledge that her sons have a support system beyond their immediate family, one that extended to the USO and its commitment to creating a sense of belonging.

In the end, for Trevor and his family, it was not about winning or losing. The USO’s initiative had brought them together, creating memories that transcended the boundaries of a gaming competition. Trevor’s message to others echoed the sentiment of his experience - if you’re playing the game, why not try something new? You never know where it might lead.

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