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.”
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
Fort Gordon Soldiers leave for Christmas Break and will travel through USO Georgia on their way home!
Video courtesy WJBF News.
Today it’s also St. Louis’s turn to manage the thousands of troops traveling for Block Leave. And it’s going great!
- Pvt. Joseph Hancock, Company F, 795th Military Police Battalion, loads his duffel bag into the van of his friend, Desiree Hendley, left. Hancock is returning home to Indianapolis, Ind., for Holiday Block Leave. The Holiday Block Leave gives Soldiers an opportunity to spend the holidays at home. (Photo courtesy myGuidon.com)
Todd Nelson, Directorate of Plans, Training and Mobilization operations specialist at Fort Leonard Wood explained, “Once we get to the St. Louis airport, there will be drill sergeants from the 1st Engineer Brigade to offload the Soldiers and get them checked into the correct airlines. The St. Louis USO, in conjunction with many other agencies, will be on hand to offer the Soldiers free entertainment and things to do while they wait for their flights. Then, in January, we get to do the whole process in reverse, but this time, everyone already has their return ticket.” Read the full story here from Guidon.com.
Indeed, for the St. Louis USO this is the busiest day of the year. As stltoday.com is reporting, “Buses from Fort Leonard Wood began pulling up at Lambert about 3 a.m. today. That’s when the disc jockey inside the USO started playing songs, taking requests for everything from rap to country music. Some of the soldiers won’t catch flights home until 6 or 7 p.m., so they’re in for a long wait at the airport. Kathy O’Connor, executive director of the USO of Missouri Inc. said the USO tries to make it a party atmosphere. Local businesses have donated food. The troops can have their pictures taken with Santa and Mrs. Claus. ‘Everything we have for them is free,’ O’Connor said as she stood at the James S. McDonnell USO Reception Desk. ‘We try and give them a holiday sendoff.'”