USO South Carolina Moves Quickly to Support First Responders, Military Community Amid Flooding

Joanie Thresher tried to explain the situation through the tears.

“The roads are gone. They’re not just covered in mud. They’re gone.

“It’s just so heartbreaking.”

At least 18 dams were breached and more than 100 bridges washed away in South Carolina after a five-day deluge of rain from Hurricane Joaquin. The weather caused more than a dozen deaths and potentially more than $1 billion in damage statewide.

The flooding has been especially hard on the state’s military community. USO South Carolina has kept its Columbia Metropolitan Airport center open to troops while providing aid to service members and families around Fort Jackson – where the Army trains more than half its new soldiers – and 1,300 National Guard first responders.

“This flood is hitting the heart of our military community,” said Thresher, the director of USO South Carolina, in a Tuesday night phone call. “There are so many military families who live in the areas worst hit, and it’s supposed to get worse before it gets better.”

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Hurricane Joaquin put an all-stop to base operations Saturday, leaving dozens of troops stranded overnight at nearby Columbia Metropolitan Airport, where hundreds typically pass through the USO lounge daily on their way to and from basic training.

USO South Carolina has called on its volunteers and donors for logistical support to help deliver basic supplies like water to military families in need.

“Everyone is bringing in supplies from water to food, diapers, formula and baby wipes, everything you can imagine they are just bringing in truckloads to us to give to service members,” Thresher said. “It’s just unbelievable.”

Thresher said most of the USO support is focused on the Guardsmen working search-and-rescue missions along the coast, where water and energy drinks are crucial. Volunteers are also delivering water, food and supplies to the inland areas and communities near Fort Jackson.

Starbucks came through with almost 300 pounds of ground coffee, water and individually wrapped food. The Columbia Chamber of Commerce, GEICO, Lowes and other businesses made financial donations.

“[It’s like the USO is] the only bridge that’s still intact,” Thresher said, “because we’re blessed to be able to get onto the installations and on to the flight lines where we can help load Chinooks and sling-load pallets to be taken across the city to the people who need it because our roads are gone.”

USO Guam Honored for Service to National Guard Troops

Troops and family members celebrate at a USO Guam homecoming celebration in April. USO photo

Troops and family members mingle at a USO Guam homecoming celebration in April. USO photo

They were there when they left. And there when they came home, too.

USO Guam got a big hat tip from the Guam National Guard this week, when it was presented the service’s Center of Influence Award for its work with troops and families during Operation Enduring Freedom. The award specifically covered USO Guam’s actions over the last two years of deployments, recognizing the center’s constant support of both Guam National Guard troops and their families through deployment and homecoming ceremonies, USO center services and additional family support.

The award was presented Sunday during an official retreat ceremony at Guam National Guard Headquarters in Barrigada, Guam.

This isn’t the first time the military has recognized USO Guam’s support. Read here about how USO Guam turned into a temporary hotel for 41 stranded Marines over the summer.

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.”


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. 

Vice President and Dr. Biden Mingle with Troops at USO Hawaii Barbecue

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Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, attended their second USO-affiliated event in as many months Saturday when they dropped in on a barbecue in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

USO Hawaii hosted the event where the Bidens mingled with approximately 500 troops and family members. The Bidens addressed the assembled guests and talked about their personal connection to the military through their son Beau Biden, who is a major in the Delaware Army National Guard.

Due to security, guests had to arrive several hours early. However, the USO had plenty of activities for the kids in attendance to pass the time, including face painters, music, a hula school performance and bounce houses.

“The USO is such a great organization,” Dr. Biden told the crowd, according to the Armed Forces Press Service. “I’ve worked with them many times, and they do really wonderful things.”

–Story by USO Story Development

*** Renew your support and commitment to our troops today. Nothing matters more than being there with the care and support they need. Your donation will be put to work immediately and will have a deep and lasting impact on our troops and their families. ***

National Guard Keeps the East Coast Safe from the Storm

As USO Centers along the east coast have greeted Troops whose flights are delayed or cancelled because of the Blizzard of 2010, one group is tackling the snow head on: the National Guard.

“‘This is our job, and this is what we do,’ said Army Maj. Gen. Errol R. Schwartz, commanding general of the D.C. Guard Joint Force Headquarters. ‘We have always answered the call for help from the District of Columbia at a moment’s notice, and our people have done a tremendous job in supporting emergency missions during this historic blizzard.'”  –Click here to read the complete DC National Guard news release.

National Guard Blizzard 2010

Soldiers from Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 116th Infantry Brigade, prepare their vehicles for potential missions in the Staunton, Va area, Feb. 5. Approximately 30 Soldiers from the Brigade are on state active duty in the Staunton area ready to assist local authorities in case of emergency. The Soldiers will be positioned in area emergency operation centers. (Photos by Capt. Matt Nowak, Virginia National Guard Public Affairs

The Virginia National Guard, meanwhile, is dispatching up to 500 personnel throughout Sunday and the governor continues to urge residents to stay home for the Super Bowl, as even Humvees are finding themselves mired in the snow!  –Click here to read locations and additional info from

We still think we’d rather be in a Humvee than an SUV, as evidenced by this video:

National Guard units in Delaware, West Virginia, and Maryland are responding similarly, with Delaware dispatching troops “in about 75 Humvees and other specialized vehicles [to take] police, doctors and nurses to and from work. They drove patients to emergency room appointments such as dialysis treatments. They took people without power to shelters.”  These essential acts are the hallmark of National Guard activity in times of emergency.  –Click here to read the full story from Delaware Online.