Retired National Guard Colonel Gives to the USO for His Two Veteran Sons

Hal Harrington is a retired Army National Guard colonel currently working for the federal government. He has two sons — one officer and one enlisted — who both deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.

When it came time to give to the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC) this year, his choice of charity was clear.

“I’m always critical, you know, of charity organizations,” said Harrington, who served more than 30 years in the Michigan National Guard, the same organization in which his sons served. “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.’”

After Harrington retired from the Michigan National Guard, he worked in the private sector for several decades until the economy took a dip in the late 2000s. That’s when he took a job working for the federal government once again, and he was happy to see the CFC had evolved to make giving much easier.

“I’d get those things in the mail for the USO and I donated that way,” Harrington said. “But the CFC made it really easy to give to the organizations I already gave to.”

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The CFC is the world’s largest and most successful annual workplace charity campaign. Pledges made by federal civilian and military personnel during the campaign season (Sept. 1 to Dec. 15) bring in millions of dollars to support nonprofit organizations that provide health and human service benefits throughout the world.

“My hat is off to [the USO] for doing what [it does],” Harrington said. “You go into those airports and sometimes there are two people there and sometimes there’s 10, and sometimes there’s 30 with duffel bags waiting to go. It doesn’t matter what airport you’re in — Atlanta, Denver, Durham … — there’s always service people and there’s always the USO where we know they are being taken care of.”

“If I can support them in any way, shape or form through [the USO] I will — and I do.”

The USO is CFC #11381. 

How the USO Served Thanksgiving Dinner to Troops Around the World

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Thanksgiving is a unique time of year when the phrase “comforts of home” means something very specific to America’s troops and their families: a full turkey dinner with all the fixings.

It’s also one of those moments when you can see the full breadth and reach of the USO and its volunteers.

Come along on a journey with us, from Kaiserslautern, Germany to Kandahar, Afghanistan to San Francisco to witness the true heart and passion of the USO in action — generous Americans working together with the military to bring the simple comfort of a Thanksgiving meal to our troops and their families wherever they may be stationed.

USO Kaiserslautern, Germany

On Nov. 22, USO Kaiserslautern hosted its 16th annual Thanks for Thanksgiving event at the Vogelweh commissary. This year, 630 junior enlisted soldiers, airmen and sailors received a free takeout meal from the USO and the community as a way to thank them for their service. Each meal consisted of a turkey, roasting pan, pie, dinner rolls, stuffing, gravy, mashed potatoes, peas, sweet potatoes and cranberries. Each service member attendee also received a $25 gift card from Service Credit Union to purchase additional food items, a 100-minute calling card, a Stars and Stripes newspaper and Disney DVDs for the kids. All of the meals were bagged up and handed out by Army and Air Force enlisted leadership.

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Landstuhl Regional Medical Center USO, Germany

On Nov. 25, Landstuhl Regional Medical Center USO hosted its annual Thanksgiving Grazing event, bringing smiles to the faces of staff members, patients and service members by providing a traditional Thanksgiving meal to approximately 250 guests.

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USO Camp Arifjan, Kuwait

Unsure if just one person can make a difference? In Kuwait, it’s USO donors like Vicki Hitzfeld whose gift of Thanksgiving decorations made a huge difference for troops stationed away from home over the holiday.

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USO Kandahar, Afghanistan

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USO Bagram, Afghanistan

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USO Northwest

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USO Denver

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USO Hawaii

While the weather may not have a Thanksgiving chill at USO Hawaii, there’s no question what time of year it is judging by the supplies in stock via USO donors and volunteers.

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USO Bay Area

The World Series Champion San Francisco Giants brought home yet another big win for the troops. This week, the director of the Kansas City International Airport paid up on a friendly World Series wager with the director of the San Francisco International Airport — 100 pounds of chocolate for USO Bay Area!

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USO Guam

The 9th Annual USO Guam Thanksgiving Feast attracted a huge crowd this year. Look at all those hungry people waiting to dig in!

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USO San Diego

At USO San Diego, traveling troops and families passing through our airport center were treated to a full-on Thanksgiving feast. Follow this link to watch the local news coverage.

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USO Rhein Main (Germany)

At USO Rhein Main, the staff surprised 130 troops and their families waiting in line at the dining facility with gift certificates covering the entire cost of their Thanksgiving meal.Screen Shot 2014-12-01 at 12.16.52 PM

USO Okinawa (Japan)

At USO Camp Hansen, troops lined up for a free meal on Thanksgiving Day. The homemade food provided by the USO was served to service members who are thousands of miles away from home.

Thanksgiving kicks off at Camp Hansen USO

USO of Northern Florida

Follow this link to see a great video about how the USO of Northern Florida fed as many as 2,000 troops!

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USO of Central Florida

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USO of North Carolina

With several military bases in the North Carolina region, there’s a whole lot of mouths to feed. Fortunately for the troops, there are a lot of USO volunteers who made sure none of them went hungry this Thanksgiving.

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USO of Metropolitan Washington-Baltimore

Thanksgiving activities have been taking place for weeks in the Washington area, from formal dinners at each of the Warrior and Family Centers to Thanksgiving care packages sent out to troops in myriad locations around the globe. Here’s just a few of the many troops who received Thanksgiving gift baskets from USO of Metropolitan Washington-Baltimore.

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USO El Paso

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Liberty USO (Philadelphia area)

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USO of South Texas

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USO Vicenza (Italy)

USO Vicenza had an entire buffet waiting for their hungry patrons. A long line of zesty rice, stuffing, macaroni and cheese, corn bread, sweet rolls, ham and turkey stood in front of them, and they didn’t waste a minute before devouring it. Everyone dug in and left with full stomachs. By the end of the night, the only evidence of food left was two lonely turkey wings.

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USO Dallas-Fort Worth

In Dallas, the Gary Sinise Foundation joined with the local USO to host a Thanksgiving Dinner!

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A Holiday Gift Guide for Our Troops

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The holidays are here.

If you didn’t see them coming it before this week, a pile of mail with circulars and glossy catalogs probably brought them into focus. By Thanksgiving night, your inbox was stuffed with email sales pitches aimed to get you to do a little Christmas shopping while you’re riding out that turkey coma.

And while we think everyone should treat themselves to that new coat or gadget if they can, we do have one more holiday shopping suggestion. There’s a group of folks out there who protect our freedoms who can’t just decide to buy a plane ticket online and come home for the holidays. And for a little cash, you can give them a gift that can significantly benefit their lives.

Keeping Families Connected

The USO is a home away from home for deployed troops. But what gets lost in that phrase is the connection those troops get back to their families through our centers. Check out this video about a North Carolina couple who connected just in time for one of life’s most precious moments. This holiday season, it’s easy to support the USO’s efforts to keep troops downrange connected with phone calls home or online video connections back home from war zones.

Homecomings

The USO is also there for spouses back at home during deployment. Here is a story of how one spouse — who is also a USO volunteer — coped during her husband’s deployment in part by tapping into the USO community on Fort Drum, New York.

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USO2GO

Not every service member in the field has access to the basics, much less amenities to pass the time. That’s where USO2GO comes in. Service members like Army 1st Lt. Ben Lyman contact the USO directly from their forward operating base or combat outpost and put in an order to receive customized shipments of everything from furniture to snacks to sports equipment, TVs and even video games. You can donate toward great services like that here, or sponsor an entire shipment via USO Wishbook.

Families of the Fallen

Everyone reacts differently when the unthinkable happens. London Bell’s brother — Marine Staff. Sgt. Vincent Bell — died in Afghanistan in 2011. She was heading into what she thought would be a difficult holiday season in 2013 when the USO called, offering her a USO/TAPS getaway to New York City where she could bond with others who’d lost family a military family member.

“I started out on the journey as a lone traveler, but I left meeting several people who were really just like me,” Bell said. “It was a good way for me to bond.” It’s one of several ways the USO helps military families when they need us most.

The Military Journey and the USO Volunteer

America’s military is an all-volunteer force, and so is the USO.

From the first day of boot camp throughout the cross-country trip to their military occupational schools to a Quonset hut in a foreign country and airports along the journey back home again, USO volunteers are by the side of troops and their families every single day of their service.

Bringing a touch of home to our troops abroad is not an easy task. It takes love, compassion and patriotism. All three of which are qualities USO volunteers carry in spades. Coming from all walks of life, each USO volunteer is dedicated to the simple, heartfelt mission of making every moment count for America’s troops and their families.

New York Yankees Lead Veterans Day Service Project

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New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi and nearly 150 volunteers helped assemble more than 5,000 USO Big Apple Greeter Packs for active-duty troops on Nov. 11 at the club’s famed Yankee Stadium.

Yankees front-office employees, service members, veterans and volunteers from Delta, FedEx, and MetLife helped assemble care packages for deployed troops.

Girardi and his wife, Kim, YES Network broadcasters David Cone and Michael Kay and longtime Yankees radio announcers John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman also participated in the event.

The USO will distribute the packs, which will include Yankees memorabilia, to troops serving in remote units in Afghanistan during this holiday season.

USO Operation: That’s My Dress! and Sherri Hill Create Cinderella Moments for Jacksonville Military Teens

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JACKSONVILLE, Florida–It was an afternoon filled with fairytale moments and Cinderella transformations.

Just in time for the holidays, USO Operation: That’s My Dress! gave 400 Jacksonville-area military teens day filled with glamour, pampering and fun while they each selected a formal dress designed by Sherri Hill.

“We hope they’re thrilled,” Hill said. “Some girls have never tried on a dress like this. So it’s almost like playing dress-up”

In addition to leaving with a new gown, teens also received Stella & Dot jewelry, L’Oreal make-up and hair products and other beauty items to complete their outfit. Teens could even get their hair and make-up done as well as consult with celebrity stylists and pageant contestants about their new look.

“My biggest wish is that these women leave feeling empowered, that they feel like they can do anything and accomplish anything they want to,” said Ray Kennedy, Vice President of Programs for USO of Metropolitan New York. “I want them to feel like they are rock stars and whatever dream they have, it can be attained.”

Before the beautification process, teens also enjoyed a fashion show featuring Miss USA and Miss Teen USA state titleholders, as well as a performance by the USO Show Troupe.

But that’s not all.

To help the entire family get in on the fun, the Greater Jacksonville Area USO expanded USO Operation: That’s My Dress! to include the entire family Homecoming Football Party, including a tailgate, a football game viewing and giveaways for the whole family courtesy of the Jacksonville Jaguars, ESPN and L’Oreal.