USO Roundup: Fort Campbell, Dover and Houston Centers Make Headlines

With more than 160 locations worldwide, news can slip through the cracks here at the USO. With that in mind, here are three items from the last few weeks you should know about:

  • The Little Things: The USO has a lot of initiatives for troops and families on the national level. But each USO location does a lot for the individual service members and families in its community, too. Earlier this week, Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations video journalists did a piece on how USO Delaware stocks the refrigerators for the Fisher House at Dover Air Force Base. Fisher House – part of the families of the fallen community at Dover – offers a free place to stay for families who are repatriating remains of troops killed while serving overseas. Watch the video here.
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USO Fort Campbell Director Kari Burgess, center, accepts the Christian County Chamber of Commerce’s Non-Profit of the Year Award Feb. 12. USO photo

  • Honor for Service: USO Fort Campbell – one of our newest centers – was named Non-Profit of the Year by the Christian County Chamber of Commerce. The award – presented at the chamber’s Small Business Breakfast on Feb. 12 – was sponsored by WHOP-FM, a radio station in Hopkinsville, Ky.
  • Over the Airwaves: USO Houston Director Elizabeth Vallette did an interview with the Houston Public Affairs radio show last week about what’s going on in her center, at USO Houston’s tent at the upcoming Rodeo Houston BBQ Cook-Off and at other USO locations around the world. Vallette is a former Army captain who has gone from using the organization’s services during her deployment to Iraq to helping the USO care for today’s troops. Listen to her interview here.

–Story by USO Story Development

 

‘It’s the Little Things’: Vet Drives 11 Hours to Donate Boxes of Supplies to USO Fort Campbell

It’s the single largest private donation ever received by USO Fort Campbell. And according to Center Director Kari Burgess-Brown, it’s also the most exuberant exchange she’s witnessed.

Jay and Kerri Giglio pose inside USO Fort Campbell, Ky., after driving from Texas to deliver 18 boxes of donated goods. USO Fort Campbell photo

Jay and Kerri Giglio pose inside USO Fort Campbell, Ky., after driving from Texas to deliver 18 boxes of donated goods. Photo courtesy of the Giglio family

For months, Burgess-Brown exchanged emails and phone calls with a passionate veteran from the Dallas area who couldn’t wait to give back to troops at his old command in Kentucky.

A veteran of 101st Airborne Division, Jay Giglio served during Operation Desert Storm, and for more than 20 years he has been working hard so that one day he might have the means to return the favor he received from generous Americans.

“At first he told us he was going to collect some things from his friends and co-workers and mail them to us,” Burgess-Brown said. “But as the weeks went by, his emails got more and more enthusiastic about the contributions he continued to receive from his community.”

Between Jay, his wife Kerri, their co-workers, and his wife’s two grown children, the Giglios gathered so many supplies that an 11-hour road trip became necessary in order to get the haul to Kentucky. In total, they collected 18 copy paper boxes full of things like snacks, games and hygiene supplies.

The Giglio's collected donation to USO Fort Campbell included snacks, games and hygiene supplies. USO photo

The Giglio’s collected donation to USO Fort Campbell included snacks, games and hygiene supplies. Photo Courtesy of the Giglio family

“We looked at the road trip as an opportunity for both of us because this is something Jay has wanted to do for a really long time, and I really wanted to see where he received his training,” Kerri Wilson-Giglio said. “I wanted to see where he was made into the great man he is today.”

For Jay, the donation was a chance to pay it forward.

“When I was at war, I remember opening a care package from a random citizen,” he said. “This person didn’t know me from Adam. In fact, I think it was even addressed to ‘Any Soldier.’ But when I opened it up and saw the thoughtful things inside, it gave me an overwhelming feeling of pride for my country.

“It’s the little things. The little things meant everything to us out there. It’s those little reminders from home, those things you can’t put a finger on that just aren’t easy to come by out there. Some of the things I remember clearly, like bobby pins and hair ties for the female soldiers. I remember crafting some of these things by hand for them because products like these were rare. The females are overlooked sometimes, and we made sure to include that stuff in our donation.”

But to Giglio’s surprise, the biggest hit within his 18 boxes of donated supplies wasn’t the bobby pins.

“When we told our guys in the field about the details of what we had coming their way, we were surprised to find out the troops were most excited about the assortment of condiments,” Burgess-Brown said.

“We had all these packets of sauce from random restaurants like Taco Bell and Chick-fil-A in our refrigerator just taking up space,” Jay Giglio said. “It was really an afterthought when we tossed them in there, but it makes sense that they would be a big hit. After all, troops must get tired of flavoring MREs with Tabasco.”

Filled with the confidence and pride of knowing their contributions were well received, the Giglio family returned to Texas with the determination to return to USO Fort Campbell each year with even more supplies for the troops of the 101st Airborne.

“I always said I would if I could,” he said. “And now I can — so I am.”

To make a similar donation, contact your local USO center or visit www.uso.org/donate.

Service After Service: Paul Andrews

To mark Veterans Day, we asked some of our volunteers who have served in America’s armed forces to share why they give their time to today’s troops by helping the USO. Here is one of their stories.

Paul Andrews and his wife volunteer during the USO Fort Campbell grand opening last year. USO photo by Christian Pelusi

Way back in 1968, 20 days after my high school graduation, I was on my way to Naval Station Great Lakes, Ill., for boot camp and more than a year of electronics school. This was my first time away from home and I was in a strange place where I didn’t know anyone or where anything was. On weekends during school, several of us would go to Chicago or Milwaukee for liberty. The USOs in both cities were our first destination, as this was the place to find out what was going on in the city for the weekend. Also, the meals they served were mostly the only food we got. They were our home away from home.

Eventually we settled on spending our free time in Milwaukee and were frequent visitors at the USO and the activities they sponsored. As E-2s and E-3s in the late 1960s, we would not have been able to see and enjoy the things we did without the USO.

I now am retired and have the opportunity to give back some of what I received. Fort Campbell, Ky. and the military are different now from when I was at Great Lakes, as the members are older and many are married with children. Some things are still the same, as many troops lack of money to do anything special. Helping these folks and their families is a great way to support our military, especially on a base that has carried a heavy burden in the present warfare.

Oh, and by the way, I met my wife when she was a volunteer with the USO in Milwaukee. We have been married for almost 43 years and now both volunteer at the USO in Fort Campbell.

–Paul Andrews
USO Fort Campbell volunteer

USO Fort Campbell Opens

Photo by @FortCampbell

A center opening is always a happy occasion for the USO. Today we opened the 142nd USO center worldwide in Ft. Campbell, KY, home to to the 101st Airborne “Screaming Eagles.”

There were brand new shiny USO signs, the ever-popular cups of coffee, troops, families, community leaders, donors and a Huey.  Yep, a Huey –  right smack dab in the middle of USO Fort Campbell.

This helicopter was recovered from a scrap yard at ft Campbell in 2010.  Thanks to the 159th combat brigade, Bravo Company  563D Aviation Support Battalion it’s now the newest, coolest gaming station you’ll ever see — and loaded with Xboxes and games thanks to Microsoft.

The 159th not only transported this helicopter, they also helped restore this UH1 Huey. Thanks to these soldiers, their labor of love will help lift the spirits of their fellow soldiers for years to come. – Gena Fitzgerald, USO VP of Communications