Many of my military brothers and sisters know what the USO is. They may not all know the history of the organization, but they know that whenever they are travelling around the world they can count on a group of volunteers in their major airports around the world to ensure they have a place to rest and a snack, free if necessary and donations if you can. There have been many instances in my 23 years of service, weary and worn, that the site of the Red, White, and Blue sign in an airport far from home, has brought a smile to my face because I knew I would find a kind volunteer there with a smile and a donut.
Most of the time the volunteers are veterans or spouses of veterans from wars past. I have met many WWII, Korea, Viet Nam Vets and their spouses continuing to serve their country through volunteer service to the nations military members. They love to tell you a story about their military life and one couple told me once how they met at a USO event when he returned from the Korean War. My Grandmother used to volunteer at the USO during WWII near Scott Field (Now Scott AFB, Illinois).
The reason the USO came up was because when I walked into my room today there was a package on my bed from the USO. I wasn’t special in anyway… everybody on camp received a package from the USO. I am sure that we are not the only deployed location that received these holiday care packages. So many USO volunteers from all over the world got together and put together these items and shipped them off to the deployed personnel around the world. These are great people who sacrifice their own time to bring joy to those that are away from their families during this holiday season. I know none of them are probably reading this blog, but I would personally like to thank all of you for your service to our military for over 70 years. I would also like to thank Mallory. I don’t know her, but she wrote a post card to an unknown service member that turned out to be me. She is in the 7th Grade. She said she was praying for me and that I am her Hero, and God Bless me and my family. Thank you, Mallory for your kindness. She ended the post card with a little humor: Why was the math book so depressed? Because it had lots of problems. Good stuff.
If you find the time, read the entire Wikipedia article on the USO and if your time is limited, at least read the part about Bob Hope. I was fortunate enough to be able to see his final Christmas Tour with the USO while serving in Desert Shield/Storm in 1990. He was an incredible supporter of the military from WWII to Desert Storm spending 48 Christmas’ overseas entertaining the service members.
About the USO (From their web-site: http://www.uso.org):
Throughout our country’s history, Americans have felt profound appreciation and gratitude for the dedication and sacrifice of our troops and their families. The USO provides a tangible way for all of us to say thank you, as it has for 70 years.
Thanks to your generosity, the USO fulfills its mission of lifting the spirits of America’s troops and their families. Through the USO, you touch their lives through an extensive range of programs at more than 160 locations in 27 states and 14 countries, and at hundreds of entertainment events each year. Thousands of USO volunteers do everything possible to provide a home away from home for our troops and to keep them connected to the families they left behind.
The USO makes sure your help goes to those who need it the most: troops serving in combat, their families, our wounded warriors and their families, and families of the fallen.
As a nonprofit, non-political organization, the USO is now, and always will be, about our troops. Wherever and whenever they go, the USO will be there, until every one comes home.
The United Service Organizations Inc. (USO) is a nonprofit organization that provides programs, services and live entertainment to United States troops and their families. Since 1941, it has worked in partnership with the Department of Defense (DOD), relying heavily on private contributions and on funds, goods, and services from various corporate and individual donors. Although congressionally chartered, it is not a government agency. The USO operates 160 centers worldwide.
During World War II, the USO became the G.I.’s “home away from home” and began a tradition of entertaining the troops that continues today. Involvement in the USO was one of the many ways in which the nation had come together to support the war effort, with nearly 1.5 million Americans having volunteered their services in some way. After it was disbanded in 1947, it was revived in 1950 for the Korean War, after which it also provided peacetime services. During the Vietnam War, USOs were sometimes located in combat zones.
The organization became particularly famous for its live performances called Camp Shows, through which the entertainment industry helped boost the morale of its servicemen and women. Hollywood in general was eager to show its patriotism, and many famous celebrities joined the ranks of USO entertainers. They entertained in military bases at home and overseas, sometimes placing their own lives in danger, by traveling or performing under hazardous conditions.
Today the USO has over 160 locations around the world in 14 countries (including the U.S.) and 27 states. In 2009, USO centers served 7.7 million visitors. In 2008, Sloan Gibson became the 22nd President and CEO. Brigadier General (Retired) John I. Pray, Jr., joined the USO in 2009 as Senior Vice President of Entertainment and Programs. In 2010, Rear Admiral Frank Thorp IV (USN, ret.) joined the organization as the Senior Vice President of Marketing and Communications. In 2011, USO centers served 8 million visitors.