The USO’s Iraq Legacy: A Decade of Evolving Support for America’s Troops

This week marks the 10th anniversary of the United States’ invasion of Iraq.

While American forces have been out of that country for more than a year, the legacy of the war is still sorting itself out.

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USO photo

With the absence of a draft, the conflict pushed America’s all-volunteer force to bear its greatest burden to date, with multiple deployments becoming a large concern on the home front. While the death toll was comparatively low when pitted against previous American conflicts, the extent of the injuries – both mental and physical – were unlike anything the country had openly dealt with before.

But while warfare evolved, one thing didn’t change. Through the last decade, the USO was by the side of our troops on the battlefield and their families at home.

We were there providing millions of phone calls home.

We were there delivering the comforts of home to desert battlefields.

We were there with a video connection to the delivery room when babies were being born.

We were there when the dread of losing a loved one came into focus in the form of a temporary casket being transferred on the tarmac at Dover Air Base, Del.

And we were there when America’s heroes returned, hosting happy homecomings at airports for the majority of troops who made it back unscathed and providing programs for others to deal with the physical and invisible wounds of war. To better confront these issues facing wounded, ill and injured troops, the USO conceived and constructed two Warrior and Family Centers to help them and their families both recover and get on the right track to rewarding lives and new careers.

Thanks to the generous support of the American people, the USO was always by the side of our troops and families during the Iraq War. And we’ll continue to be there, wherever they go.

–Story by USO Story Development

Breaking the Roles: Chaplain David Sparks

David Sparks (l) is one of five chaplains supporting the community at Dover Air Force Base.

Continuing this week’s HuffPost Impact series “Breaking the Roles” is today’s profile of David Sparks, a long-time reserve chaplain who was called into active duty in the period after September, 11, before retiring in 2007 and staying on as a civilian chaplain at Dover Air Force Base.

“What an honor to work with these folks who are doing a duty that really can’t be described or imagined,” he told Huffington Post’s Jonathan Daniel Harris. “To keep them as healthy as possible as they do their work — it’s a huge privilege, it’s what called me to the ministry 30 years ago. Every day I walk away feeling fulfilled. Exhausted, but fulfilled.”

Click here to read the full interview and take a moment to watch a short video made at Dover AFB late last year…

Dover AFB, Meet Elmo…

…and Grover and Cookie Monster and Rosita and Zoe!  The Sesame Street/USO Experience alighted in Delaware as part of their Stateside tour for Phase IV of this entertaining family show.  Check out the photo essay below:

Children of military families pose for a photo while awaiting the start of a Sesame Street/USO show at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, April 29, 2010. (USO photo by Mike Theiler)

Military family members were thrilled to see 'Elmo' and his friends sing, dance and perform just for them, as they continue a six-month tour of military bases in the U.S. (USO photo by Mike Theiler)

Dozens of military families military danced along - or just saw in awe! - as the Muppets of Sesame Street perform a show at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, April 29, 2010. (USO photo by Mike Theiler)

Children of military families get up close and personal with some of their favorite Sesame Street characters. Having previously visited military families in Asia, the Pacific and Europe, the tour is now visiting more than 40 bases in the United States. (USO photo by Mike Theiler)

Want to learn more about Dover?  Click here to watch a video about the USO Centers there, visit this blog post and read about the new Families of the Fallen Center, and learn more about USO Delaware director Joan Cote.