Operation Enduring Care

From the desk of John Hanson:

“Why is the USO doing this?”  We hear it all the time when we talk about Operation Enduring Care – the USO’s initiative to create programs for wounded warriors and their families.

Mike Augustyn, a Polish soldier injured in Iraq, reacts to a comical charicature created by Tom Richmond, a member of the National Cartoonist Society at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, Oct. 16, 2009, during a USO deployment. (USO photo by Jackie Zettles)

We get it.  People know about the USO, but the one thing they know about most is our outstanding entertainment program.  Why not?  For generations of Americans, Bob Hope was the face of the USO.  And, today celebrities from the stars of Sons of Anarchy to Zac Brown and Toby Keith continue that rich tradition of entertaining troops wherever they serve.

But, truth be told, most service members never see a USO show.  The math doesn’t make that possible.  Most troops and family members know the USO for its network of USO centers – almost 150 today – scattered at military bases and airports across America and around the world.  There are 3 USO centers in Kuwait, 3 in Iraq and we’re about to open our 2nd one in Afghanistan (in Kandahar).  In fact, entertainment is not quite 12 percent of what the USO provides.

The USO delivers its brand of care and support to remote forward operating bases and combat outposts through the USO2Go program.  We ship almost everything from athletic equipment and snacks to laptop computers and video games – hundreds of boxes on dozens of pallets are prepared to order and sent to those troops who know isolation better than any of us can imagine.

The USO makes it possible for parents to record a children’s book onto a DVD.  We then send the DVD and the book to the child, so he or she can read along with Mom or Dad.  So far, 100,000 of those recordings have been made.  In 2010 alone, we hope to provide 100,000 of these valuable connections to home.

The USO is the link between the American public and its military.  Each month more than 200,000 free and very clear phone calls are made  over our satellite-based private telephone network.  Now, that’s a link to home!  That network makes it possible for troops to “be in” delivery rooms when children are born; they can watch early steps by children they haven’t seen in months.  Our donors make all of those things possible.

Who Needs us Most?

Now that I’ve stepped on my lead, it’s time to explain Operation Enduring Care.  The program started a few years ago, when we offered duffels of clothing, toiletries and short term needs to wounded warriors arriving at Landstuhl Medical Center in Germany.  We still do that.

But, today Operation Enduring Care includes our most ambitious effort in more than a generation – maybe in the USO’s history.

We will build 2 Wounded Warrior Family Centers in the Washington, D.C. area.  One will be at Ft. Belvoir, Virginia, near an Army hospital that will be built there.  The other will be at the new Walter Reed medical center in Bethesda, Maryland.

Each will be designed to what we call the “audible gasp” standard.

Each will include areas for families and recovering troops to gather outside the hospital.  There will be children’s play areas, kitchens and dining areas for home-cooked meals.  We envision these as warm and welcoming places that symbolize the public’s support for and recognition of the service and sacrifice of troops and their families.

Members of the National Cartoonist Society take a photo with U.S. Army SPC Ben Brashier of Okolona, Miss., at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany Oct. 16, 2009, after sketching him a number of cartoons and characters during their USO deployment. In addition to visiting many wounded soldiers in Germany, the cartoonists are also scheduled to visit more than a dozen military bases in the combat zone. (USO photo by Jackie Zettles)

Why the USO?

The USO is the most trusted brand when it comes to troop support activities.  When the American public thinks about supporting the troops, the USO comes to mind quickly.

These new centers will not be about the USO.  Their sole focus will be on the needs of troops and families as they prepare for a new and productive future.  Other organizations offer programs the USO would not attempt, and their participation will be encouraged.  The USO does not provide job training or career coaching, but these centers can provide space for that to be delivered – to troops and families.

It strikes me that most Americans have little appreciation for the amount of time many of our wounded warriors spend in the hospital.  After all, we know very few people who are ever hospitalized for more than a few days.  But, amputees might spend 18 months recovering from their injuries.  Many wounded warriors face multiple surgeries over many months.  Their families leave their homes to be with them.  The sacrifice is shared and the reintegration to life after the hospital is critical to every one of them.

Their successful re-entry into our communities will be the responsibility of each of us.  They have received the very best medical care, and teams of doctors, nurses and therapists focused on getting these folks well enough to return home.  Home is where we come in.  Not to pity or coddle them, but to give them the opportunities they earned by their service.  The communities they return to should be communities of support.

There will be more on Operation Enduring Care as we break ground and start construction in the coming months.

30 thoughts on “Operation Enduring Care

  1. I appreciate it so very much what all the people working for USO do for the soldiers, so good to see a injured soldier laughing. My husband is deployed and its comforting to know that he always that he has USO to go to. Also when he flies home for R&R
    Thanks a bunch and also the cartoonist for bringing sunshine in the soldiers lives when they need it the most!!!!

  2. I have used the USO many times. I seen Tobey Keith perform at Camp Victory in Bhahgdad. Recieved care package items in Iraq, a care package while going through Landstuhl, and still use a shoulder bag from USO I received at Walter Reed Medical Care Center. The family centers will be a great addition. I know we were put on a waiting list for a spot in the Fisher House, which delayed my children in being able to visit me at WRAMC in 2004. This delay was an anxious time for both me and my children. My wife had to sleep in a chair next to my bed until an opening came around. Family is agreat tool in the recovery of injured soldiers.
    Thanks USO

  3. I would like to know the breakdown of a donation. What percentage of my donation goes to administrative costs and what percentage actually goes to our veterans programs? Thank you.

  4. I will not send a donation until I get an actual account of where and hoe much is paid to administrational executives. I find this not noted in your explanation of this charity. Joyce Singleton

  5. A recent Operation Enduring Care appeal featured the term “Wounded Warriors” but the` relationship, if any, is unclear.

  6. I sent in my check … November 25, 2013, for a flag. I was planning to give it as a Christmas present. Where is it?

    • Hi Ellen. We checked with our distributor, and while the flags normally take six-to-eight weeks to arrive, we believe you’ll receive yours before Christmas. Thanks for supporting the USO!

  7. I mailed my check on Dec. 18, 2013, and still have not received my flag. I will be proud to display my flag in front of my house.

  8. After reading all the requests for flags, that states they have donated, (As I Have, $15.00 on 5/22/14). Is this a scam for money or are we really going to receive a 5′ by 3′ American flag??? The check has been deposted in the bank and someone has gotten my money!! Where’s the flag??

    • Hi Richard. We’re really sorry to read about the flag mix-up.
      We just passed your information onto our Development department, and they are on the case to make sure you get your flag.
      Thanks for supporting our troops!

    • Hi Thomas. We checked our records, found the issue and got your flag in the mail to you today. Thanks for supporting the troops and have a great Fourth of July weekend!

  9. Second post and still no reply or flag. Wasn’t really looking for the flag. I support DAV and Wounded Warriors as well. Friend told me he never received flag also. That’s what made me post first time and now. Sent check around May 17, 2014. Shouldn’t have even posted the flag as an incentive if you can’t deliver. Now you have many negative posts.

    • Hi Paul- We’re sorry you haven’t received a flag for your donation. Please contact us at 1-888-484-3876 and we will be happy to assist you right away.

  10. I sent in my donation the beginning of June and have yet to receive my flag too. It is well past the 6-8 weeks.

    • Sorry to hear that. Our Development team is on the case and they’ll contact you soon. Thanks for supporting the troops through the USO!

  11. I sent my donation of $25. on Dec. 11, 2013, but have yet to receive my U.S. flag. Out of supply???

  12. Hi Michael-
    We’re really sorry to hear you don’t have your flag yet. Our Development team has been notified and is looking into it.
    Thanks for supporting our troops and have a great holiday weekend!

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