We see inspiring things every day at the USO. Today, we’re reflecting on some of the inspiring things people told us throughout the last year.
Some of these are thank yous for what our amazing volunteers have done. Others are the words of those volunteers and donors who count helping troops not as a task, but as a privilege and an obligation. And some of these are directly from service members and military family members who benefitted from our programs and services in 2014.
1. “When you are leaving or are gone on deployment, you would give ANYTHING for just one more moment. Whether it’s just to hear their voice or it’s being able to see their faces, any moment possible is priceless and that is exactly what the USO has given service members, so thank you.”
–Sgt. 1st Class Tyler Arnold, a veteran of multiple combat tours who was honored by the USO and Hunter Hayes during a pair of fall concerts.
2. “My whole incentive when I’m at the USO is to try to treat people like I would want my son to be treated and taken care of.”
–USO of Arizona volunteer Michelle Selby, who kept the center open all night during a dust storm last year. Selby’s son also served in the military.
3. “As a soldier and as a husband, it’s nice to know that remembering those three little letters — USO — means that [my wife will] be taken care of wherever she is and wherever I am, and that’s huge for me.”
–Sgt. Arden Sellers, whose wife, Shanna, found refuge at the Liberty USO’s Philadelphia International Airport center when a flight cancellation left her stranded.
4. “I think it’s important that our service men and women and our veterans know that we love them and we do not take what they do for granted and I think it’s important that they know that, so I’ll continue to work with the USO as long as they’ll have me.”
–Country star Kellie Pickler, who has been on eight USO tours, including multiple trips to Middle East war zones.
5. “I’m proud that we have Ladies Night. You can see a huge difference on the female soldiers’ faces, because we have a moment to ourselves.”
–Sgt. Rada Kalpee, who was volunteering with at USO Kandahar when we profiled USO Ladies Nights in July.
6. “I got to see my son — just seconds after he was born — I got to see him being cleaned up, being weighed, being measured; something I wouldn’t have been able to do if it wasn’t for the services offered by the USO.”
–Capt. Nick Whitefield, who used a USO Internet connection in Afghanistan to watch the birth of his son.
7. “There is not enough space on the feedback form to describe the impact the USO2GO program has had on my platoon and the boost in morale.”
–1st. Lt. Ben Lyman, whose platoon requested and received a USO2GO shipment at their forward operating base.
8. “I’m always critical … of charity organizations. The USO is one I don’t even have to think about. In fact, when I sent my boys off to their basic schools, the USO was part of my safety brief to them. I’d say, ‘Here’s where you’re flying and here’s where you’re going, and here’s the airports that have USO facilities, so stop in and use them.’”
–Retired Col. Hal Harrington on why he chose to donate to the USO.
9. “Before deploying, the only thing I knew about the USO was that they did care packages and they were in the airports. But then I go to Afghanistan and they’re in every airport that I went through. Fellow veterans, families, people who want to help and support our veterans and our military [were volunteering at each location], and these people loved us. They treated me like family at every stop. Then I get to Afghanistan and there’s a USO on my [forward operating base].”
–1st Lt. Beau McNeff, who created a surprise USO moment for his on “The Meredith Vieira Show” in September.
10. “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, who sent us this message when she signed the USO Every Moment Counts flag in 2014.
11. “My husband and I have spent countless hours enjoying USO locations in airports and military installations. Donating to the USO was our way of expressing gratitude to an organization that has always been there for us while also teaching our daughter a valuable lesson about giving.”
–Cherie Bell, whose family raised raised nearly $100 for the USO in lieu of gifts for their daughter’s first birthday.
12. “That was an extremely tough deployment for me, and that was a particularly tough time during that long deployment. USO provided a much needed shot in the arm. Thank you.”
–Navy Cmdr. Matthew Andrews, who wrote us a poignant email this fall.
13. “I think it’s extremely important to have the community and the different groups to lean on when your soldier’s deployed. It helps in the sense that you realize that you’re not alone.”
–Military spouse Ashley Sandgren on the environment USO Fort Drum created for spouses during her Army husband’s deployment.
14. “I think this will give someone a place to kind of sit back, reflect, relax, work on themselves just on a personal level — a worry-free zone in a sense.”
–Retired Army Sgt. Kevin Gatson on how the USO Warrior and Family Center in Bethesda, Maryland, helps wounded warriors stationed there heal.