Elizabeth Vallette’s first experience with the USO wasn’t exactly life-changing, but it lifted the spirits of a cash-poor West Point cadet making her way through an airport en route to a training assignment.
“Another cadet came running … up the terminal at us, screaming ‘Free hot dogs at the USO,’” Vallette said.
Later, during a 12-month deployment to Iraq with III Corps in 2004, the USO brought comedian Robin Williams to her base in Baghdad. “His show was perfect timing,” Vallette said. “It was just sinking in that things were not going well. We really needed the pick-me-up, and he delivered.”
After leaving the Army, Vallette spent time as an MBA student at the University of Houston and worked for a Canadian nonprofit in Kabul, Afghanistan.
When the project ended, she saw a job listing for a center director at USO Houston.“It hadn’t ever really occurred to me that you could actually work for the USO … and get paid,” she said.
Since July 2011, she has led a team that serves nearly 35,000 troops and family members with the help of a team of 400 volunteers.
Anyone who wants a taste of Vallette’s Houston hospitality should check out the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo’s World’s Championship in February and checkout the USO’s entry in the bar-b-cue contest. – Derek Turner, USO Sr. Editor