USO Tampa Bay’s Lamerton Receives Community Honor from NHL Team

On Jan. 18, 2012, the USO Board of Governors did something it hadn’t done in 20 years: it voted to grant a charter to a new USO.

The doors to the new USO Tampa Bay center have been open since September, and just last week, the man who made it all happen was honored by the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning as the 32nd Lightning Community Hero of 2013.

Tampa Bay Lightning player Nate Thompson, left, and Lightning Chief Operating Officer Steve Griggs, right, present a $50,000 check to Walter Lamerton and Brenda Schwarzkopf, the wife of the late General Norman Schwarzkopf. Photo courtesy of the Tampa Bay Lightning

Tampa Bay Lightning player Nate Thompson, left, and Lightning Chief Operating Officer Steve Griggs, right, present a $50,000 check to Walter Lamerton and Brenda Schwarzkopf, the wife of the late General Norman Schwarzkopf. Photo courtesy of the Tampa Bay Lightning

USO Tampa Bay CEO Walter Lamerton – a retired Air Force senior master sergeant from Trinity, Fla. – was presented with a $50,000 check from the Lightning Foundation and the Lightning Community Heroes program. How much does he care about the USO? He donated the entire check back the USO of Tampa Bay.

Lamerton – a jet engine mechanic when he served – didn’t realize at first that there wasn’t a USO at the Tampa Bay International Airport.

“Like many others in this community, I would see all of the 300,000 military personnel going through the airport every year, but I must have just assumed there was a USO,” he said.

When he realized there was no place for the traveling troops to decompress, he launched an initiative to build a USO. In two years, Lamerton secured funding, attracted 550 volunteers and formed local versions of what he calls a “blue collar” board of directors, an advisory board and committees.

“I was told, ‘This has been tried before,’” Lamerton said. “And I simply responded with, ‘I don’t know anything about that. All I know is what’s needed now.’”

The stars aligned when CEO Joe Lopano took over at Tampa Bay International Airport after leaving an executive role at the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport – where the USO has an impactful presence – and Gen. (Ret.) Richard B. Myers took over as chairman of the board for the USO worldwide.

“It was at that moment, when the new CEO came in to town and Gen. Myers announced that he would be the new chairman, that I knew it could happen,” Lamerton said. “I had served under Gen. Myers, so I called him up to congratulate him and at the same time ask for his help.”

Myers facilitated conversations between Lamerton and the Tampa Bay airport’s executive committee. Lamerton submitted a financial plan, and approvals from the USO’s Board of Directors and the airport came in nearly simultaneously.

“Walter Lamerton was a driving force behind submitting this ultimately successful proposal to the USO Board of Governors,” said Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-Fla.), Vice Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, before Congress last May. “He worked closely with volunteers throughout the Tampa Bay area and effectively conveyed their message of support for our service members and their families to both the local community and to the USO Board of Governors, under a compact timeframe.

“Mr. Lamerton’s leadership and attention to detail were critical in the effort to bring the USO Center to Tampa. As a result, many of our nation’s service members and their families will directly benefit from his efforts for years to come.”

— Joseph Andrew Lee, USO Staff Writer

A Special Shoutout from Bagram to Florida!

A look at some of the USO amenities available at Bagram AB. (USO photo/Facebook)

Bagram, Afghanistan – The 69th MP company here on BAF received care packages from the Jacksonville USO.  The Unit is in charge of one of the facilities on Bagram that has a satellite USO run completely by Military Volunteers.

The Pat Tillman USO works very closely with the satellite USO, providing Big Screen TVs, gaming systems, DVD players, and many other resources to continue the mission at hand. We here at the Pat Tillman USO along with the 69th MP unit appreciate the generosity of the Jacksonville people, volunteers, and USO for all their support.

P.S. – If someone you know is serving at Bagram, be sure to “like” USO Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan on Facebook!

Holidays at the Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport USO

While many have been enjoying time home over the past couple of weeks, there are some Troops who spent Christmas preparing to deploy to Iraq and Afghanistan.  At the Jean R. Amos USO Center at Hartsfield-Jackson, though, the mood was positive and hopeful.  Deployment is never easy, but homemade Christmas cards, the support of volunteers, some delicious food, and Santa himself made the day a little bit better for those deploying out of Atlanta.

As Bill Liss of NBC 11 in Atlanta reported, “The troops were gathering at the Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport USO above the Airport Atrium.  And there to bring a festive holiday spirit were 63 USO volunteers and 8 top Metro Atlanta chefs serving up a festive holiday banquet.  Many of the troops were heading into active war zones on Christmas day for the first time.”

MyFox Atlanta interviewed Mary Lou Austin, the CEO of USO Georgia, whose sentiments reinforced the importance of the USO’s mission to families this time of year: “Today’s a very special day.  We try to make it as much like home…home for the holidays.”

more about “Troops Treated to Christmas Day Meal …“, posted with vodpod

UPDATE!  The City of Jacksonville USO made Christmas dinner possible for 1300 Marines from Camp Lejeune.  Check out the video below and read the full story from Eyewitness News 9.  “Gunny Claus” himself (their terms, not ours!) traveled 3,000 miles from the North Pole to provide encouragement