God Bless the USO!

We’ve mentioned the USO on this site before, but I searched and couldn’t find a detailed article, so today’s article is a spotlight on the USO. It’s not entirely praise, but it’s the executives that deserve the flogging. Much like the citizens of every country, the “leaders” are often corrupt, while the citizens, in this case the volunteers, are breaking their backs trying to do what’s right.

From what I’ve heard, service members are in agreement that the USO volunteers do a great job of supporting troops and that the USO lives up to its name, “the Force behind the Forces”.

“”We go where no other nonprofits can to keep our service members connected to everything that gives meaning to their service.” 

IN THE BEGINNING From the Library of Congress: The United Service Organizations … was incorporated in New York on February 4, 1941 … At the recommendation of President Franklin Roosevelt, the task was put in the hands of … six social service organizations as a private, nonprofit organization … the Jewish Welfare Board, the National Catholic Community Service, the Salvation Army, the Travelers Aid Association of America, the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA), and the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA). Over the course of World War II, the USO boasted more than 1 million civilian volunteers and operated more than 3,000 recreational clubs. Set up quickly in churches, museums, barns, railroad cars, storefronts, and other locales, USO clubs were places for both lively social activity and quiet contemplation. Some soldiers came to dance and watch movies, others to pursue traveler’s information or assistance, still others to write letters, lounge, eat, or seek religious counsel … Soon after the founding of the USO, the organization created a subsidiary, Camp Shows Inc.”

That, of course, is where Bob Hope and other famous actors, actresses, and entertainers came into the picture. I grew up watching Bob Hope Christmas Specials filmed on location at military bases around the world. Now it’s Gary Sinise, God bless him, Lee Greenwood, and many others.

Military Benefits Info notes that “USO facilities are found at overseas military bases and offer many services depending on mission and location … some USO locations are unstaffed, located ‘in places too dangerous for anyone but combat troops to occupy’ according to the USO … an even more innovative approach is … mobile canteens built out of four-wheel drive vehicles that can provide access to email, phone calls, and rest services … In 2017 alone, there were an estimated seven million visits to USO facilities worldwide.”

I’d like to own one of those mobile canteens, if it came with a cook and dishwasher. 🙂

At “USO Stories”, Amanda Wilson, one of USO’s volunteers in Afghanistan, describes the cost of caring:

“… Combat-related casualties and deaths still occur and some service members still never make it home. For USO staff members, like me, who work alongside our deployed U.S. military in combat zones, this heavy realization is a part of our everyday lives, too … In many ways, we become a tight-knit family and care deeply for one another’s wellbeing … This year, our USO family was affected by a heart-wrenching blow. In January 2020, two soldiers were killed and six were injured in a surprise attack. Among the casualties were two of our regular patrons, who were badly injured, and one of our USO volunteers, who was killed … [This was the Kandahar attack] The USO’s reach is far and wide and we are committing to staying by the side of service members at each step of their journey, especially during difficult times like this.”

That’s an understatement. From Afghanistan, Wilson contacted Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, where the wounded soldiers were being sent for treatment, and the USO Warrior Center team there met them to give them “some USO care“. Learning that the soldiers’ next stop would be Fort Bragg, North Carolina, that team contacted the North Carolina Sandhills Area Operations Manager Brian Knight, who “coordinated with the service members’ unit and stopped by for a special USO visit … “

As the agency moved closer to the end of the 20th century, it began putting greater emphasis on making life easier for military families in addition to serving those in uniform. The USO has played important roles for troops and families in both Gulf Wars, operations in Afghanistan, and elsewhere.”

The USO offers a wide range of programs designed to help military families stay strong, keeping warriors in the field! in touch with their families by phone, support for warriors transitioning back to civilian life , support for families of the fallen , military spouse program  and military spouse networking  … and more. You can even give $59 to fund a video of a soldier in the field reading a bedtime story to his or her child back home!

God will settle the score with the outrageously overpaid executives of the USO, but I think the USO deserves to be supported. They can reach out to our troops so effectively, with a real understanding of their situation. On our own you and I could never hope to accomplish anywhere near as much.

Find a USO near you

Here,  you can search for photographs of USO facilities, entertainers, and World War II service members on leave.

04-17-2020: USO reaching out to quarantined soldiers at Fort Drum, NY. 

Trainees getting some lighter moments courtesy of the USO.

A giant thank you to those who support those who defend us! And to our military also. May all of you come home safe, and may God guide you and guard you until you do.


 

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