When people get fired up about supporting America’s troops, they usually do it in a big way.
Today, the USO announced it shattered the Guinness World Record for most signatures on a flag, collecting 115,405 signatures earlier this year. Part of the Every Moment Counts campaign, the certified record breaks the previous mark by more than 82,000 signatures. The flag will be unveiled to the public on a three-city tour that starts Thursday at the Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati.
While 115,405 is a huge number, it’s also one with a lot of meaning. The USO asked those who signed the flag online to explain why they did it.
“My family’s military history goes back over 10 consecutive generations,” said online signer Beth Hish. “I did this for them and the thousands of others who serve and who have served our great nation.”
Hish said she directly benefitted from USO services as a teen when her family was stationed at Clark Air Base in the Philippines in the early 1990s. Those included a Billy Joel visit and performance at her high school.
“The concerts, school visits and activities brought a little piece of stateside comfort to a kid who was struggling to fit in to a new school [and] community. It was something familiar that I could connect with. USO programming [and] support is such a special gift to military members and their families. The least we can do is show our support in return. … That’s why I signed the flag.”
Others had similar stories:
“I signed the flag because I fully understand the importance of feeling support from all the non-military people in our great nation. I served eight years in the Army Signal Corps. … Every where I went the USO was there in some form or fashion … whether it was a recreation tent or a phone center and even on occasion seeing big-name musicians, actors and public figures all out showing their support for the U.S. military. I have not — nor will I ever — forget what our flag stands for and what it means to me. … Thank you USO for being there for all us.” –Former Sgt. Craig D. Matthews
“I signed the flag because I love America and I am proud to serve in the [Air Force] Reserve! The USO has provided me a place to rest and recuperate between flights on multiple deployments. I always feel welcome and safe.” –Carolyn Newhouse
“I signed the flag because all three of my sons have served or currently serve in the military. … [I am] very proud of my boys. The USO has been their for them when they transition from place to place. Thank you for all that you do for our military.” –Rosalee Morris
“My father is a Marine. My parents met at the USO. I was born and bred in the Marine Corps and work for the Air Force. I see every day what the men and women of our armed forces sacrifice for our country and am proud to support them in their endeavors. Thank you USO for your support … I might not be here if it wasn’t for your wonderful organization.” –Kim Chastain
(Editors note: Submissions lightly edited for style)