Kasia Bennett has come full circle.
A lifelong artist, the beachy blonde describes herself as a flower child of the 1970s who was so against the Vietnam War that she admits to vilifying returning troops then because she thought “they were a part of the ‘problem.’”
That was until a Marine pilot swept her off her feet. The transition to military life changed the mother of two’s perspective. Now, while’s he’s flying a commercial airliner at 30,000 feet, Kasia is down on Earth pouring her heart into a new acrylic mural inside the children’s room at USO Guam.
“Honestly I am ashamed of my former beliefs and attitudes,” she wrote in an email interview with the USO. “I have learned about and come to appreciate the depth of commitment the enlisted men and women give. Paying if needed, the ultimate price and giving their lives for our nation.
“The time that I give volunteering at the USO to make a soldier or their family’s day a little easier or more pleasant will never be too much to ask.”
The full-room work of three-dimensional art honors the local Chamorro people, highlights the cultural beauty of Guam and brings life-size Sesame Street characters to the walls to welcome military children.
“What was once designed as a USO for single service members, the Pacific pivot means more and more families are coming to Guam with very different needs,” said Leigh Leilani Graham, Area Director of USO Hawaii and Guam
Graham described USO Guam as a “destination center” with more of an island spa feel as opposed to the more traditional USO centers military families are used to at airports and bases.
Bennett, a USO volunteer, has spent more than 200 hours creating the mural. And it’s not the first time her family helped paint the building. It was actually the discovery of an old newspaper clipping of her husband, Craig, 26 years ago, painting a USO Guam wall that motivated her.
“The location of the facility has changed, [but] we are keeping volunteering at the USO a family tradition,” Bennett wrote in an email. The USO has moved from Piti to The Royal Orchid on Tumon Bay between the time her husband painted the roof and now.
“It felt fantastic to give my time,” she wrote. “I was made to feel appreciated and supported during the entire endeavor by the Guam USO staff.”