Lindsy Wadas, director of the USO of Illinois’ center at Chicago O’Hare International Airport, poses with Marine Maj. Matthew Winkelbauer after he and 12 fellow Marines arrived in Chicago on Monday. Courtesy of USO of Illinois
Here at the USO, we’re lucky to get to do things on a large scale for America’s troops and their families. But it’s the little, serendipitous events that come together each day at USO centers around the world that keep us going.
On Monday, 13 Marines on the tail end of a five-day trip home from Afghanistan got a surprise they’ll never forget, courtesy of a web of people who’d likely never met and an enterprising USO of Illinois volunteer. In the course of a few minutes, the Marines went from a routine approach for landing at Chicago O’Hare International Airport to getting a water-canon salute on the runway and an impromptu greeting at the gate by members of Chicago’s police and fire departments, USO of Illinois volunteers and airport personnel. Once they were in the terminal, American Airlines offered up six first class upgrades to the Marines for free for their flight to San Diego. And when the Marine contingent boarded the plane, seven other first-class passengers gave up their seats so the Marines could sit together.
Read how one Marine’s fiancee, roughly 30 of Chicago’s finest, one USO partner, seven strangers on an airplane and a host of airport workers and USO volunteers – including 74-year-old former Marine John Colas, who coordinated it all – made this moment happen.
Army Staff Sgt. Ty Michael Carter receives the Medal of Honor from President Barack Obama on Monday at the White House. Photo courtesy of the Army
Army Staff Sgt. Ty Michael Carter became the eighth Afghanistan War vet to receive the Medal of Honor on Monday at the White House. While his actions set him apart, it’s also notable that he used his platform to talk about the post-traumatic stress issues he’s dealt with after returning home.
Carter – who was honored by the USO last year at the USO of Metropolitan New York’s Armed Forces Gala and Gold Medal Dinner – has spoken up in recent months about his struggle to readjust since his return home.
“Know that a soldier suffering from post-traumatic stress is one of the most passionate, dedicated men or women you’ll ever meet,” Carter said during Monday’s ceremony. “Know that they are not damaged. They are simply burdened with living what others did not.”
USO Warrior and Family Care has several programs dedicated to assist the tens of thousands of troops struggling with PTSD on their road to recovery. If you know someone who needs help, click here.