Photos Through the Decades: Celebrating the USO’s 74th Birthday

In honor of the USO’s 74th birthday, we’re taking a trip through time to revisit some of the iconic images we’ve captured. Here are a few snapshots that show how the USO has supported troops and their families over the decades.

1940s

USO_Founders

Leaders from the six founding organizations of the USO shake hands in 1941. USO photo

The USO, which stands for United Service Organizations (don’t forget the “s” in “Organizations”) traces its roots back to six other organizations. The Salvation Army, Young Men’s Christian Association, Young Women’s Christian Association, National Catholic Community Services, National Travelers Aid Association and the National Jewish Welfare Board pooled resources to start the USO on Feb. 4, 1941, at the request of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

1950s

Marylin_Monroe

Marylin Monroe at a USO show in Korea in 1954. USO photo

This snapshot shows Hollywood star Marilyn Monroe entertaining troops in Korea in 1954. Monroe entertained more than 100,000 troops while on tour for the USO. The USO still produces and hosts dozens of international celebrity tours each year.

USOmemories

1960s

Hope_Banner

Troops hold up a “Hi Bob” banner during one of Bob Hope’s USO shows. USO photo

Bob Hope was a USO tour staple for 50 years, making his last overseas trip to entertain troops during the Gulf War. In honor of his service and commitment to the military community, the USO center at Los Angeles International Airport bears his name today. In fact, the USO worked with Congress to designate Hope as first honorary veteran of the United States military.

1970s

Sammy_Davis

Sammy Davis Jr. performs in Long Binh, Vietnam, in 1972. USO photo

Sammy Davis Jr., a veteran himself, entertained 15,000 troops in his first USO performance alone. According to the USO’s On Patrol Magazine, Davis relished his tour and encouraged fellow entertainers to continue the tradition. “My recent tour in Vietnam was one of the most exciting and satisfying experiences of my career,” Davis said after the 1972 circuit. “I can only urge all entertainers to support this much needed USO program.”

1980s

Naples_USO

The USO Naples fleet center after it was bombed in 1988. USO photo

It was a somber scene outside the USO Naples fleet center on April 14, 1988, after a deadly car bomb exploded just outside the entrance, killing five people – including Navy RM2 Angela Santos – and injuring 15. In 2013, USO Naples hosted Santos’ sister, Jennifer Cruz, and held a special service in Santos’ memory.

1990s

Jay_Leno

Jay Leno entertains troops during the Gulf War. USO photo

Jay Leno has been making troops laugh for decades. He recently returned from a USO tour with Al Roker. Leno auctioned off a pair of cars in the last few years to raise nearly $1 million for military nonprofits. He also helped raise thousands for the USO serving as the grand marshal of 2012’s Love Ride through Southern California. “I have a couple of West Pointers in my family,” Leno recently told the USO. “And there’s a little sense [that] you’ve got to give something back. I didn’t get shot in the ass, I should do something else [for the troops].”

2000s

Comedian Robin Williams greets troops during a 2007 USO Chairman's Holiday Tour stop at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, on Dec. 17, 2007. Photo by Chad J. McNeeley/Courtesy of the Department of Defense

Comedian Robin Williams greets troops during a USO Chairman’s Holiday Tour stop at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, on Dec. 17, 2007. Photo by Chad J. McNeeley/Courtesy of the Department of Defense

Robin Williams was committed to making service members smile. The comic legend, who passed away in 2014, went on six USO tours from 2002 to 2013, including five overseas. Through his work with the USO, Williams visited troops in 12 countries, making three stops to both Iraq and Afghanistan. “There’s nothing I enjoy more than traveling with the USO and giving back to our troops in whatever way I can,” Williams said during a 2007 USO tour led by then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen. “They work hard, sacrifice a lot and deserve to be treated like the heroes they are. The very least I can do is bring a smile to their faces.”

2010s

ss_2012

Kids watch the 2012 Sesame Street/USO Experience for Military Families at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois. USO photo by Fred Greaves

The Sesame Street/USO Experience for Military Families tour entertained its 500,000th audience member in 2014. It’s the USO’s longest-running tour and is specially designed to help military children tackle the unique issues they face growing up with parents who serve.

Why Hire a Veteran?

So why hire a veteran?

Hire Heroes USA’s Noah Thomas thinks the question should be “Why wouldn’t you hire a veteran?”

Thomas was at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in November helping put on a USO/Hire Heroes USA Transition Workshop when he stopped to talk with us about why potential employers should look to hire recent veterans.

“No matter if you’ve served two years, six months, 20 years, 30 years, a veteran has experienced a lot,” he said. “They’re resilient, they’re objective-oriented, they’re detail-oriented.

“They know how to work in diverse teams. And so what they can bring to the company is far beyond what you see on TV and movies with the [post-traumatic stress issues].

“[Veterans] bring everything from project planning, logistics, community engagement and they do it in a short timeframe and usually with not a lot of money.”

Blog_camo

Whether you’re a transitioning service member in need of a resume or a boost to your interview skills or an employer looking for some fresh talent, you can accomplish a lot at a USO/Hire Heroes USA workshop.

Auburn vs. Alabama Off the Field: Schools’ Theta Chi Chapters Compete to Support the USO

AU_Alabama_Competition

Roll Tide? War Eagle? Now is your chance to support your favorite school and help the USO at the same time.

The famous SEC football foes have extended their rivalry to the nonprofit world. According to al.com, the Theta Chi chapters at both Auburn and the University of Alabama have created a competition to benefit the USO.

Participation is easy, and any fan around the world can do it. You can text either “USO Tide” if you support Alabama or “USO Tigers” if you support Auburn to 80888. The texts will add a $5 donation to your phone bill that will benefit the USO. (Standard text and data rates may also apply.)

Alabama senior John Anderson, a former Theta Chi chapter president, told al.com that the two chapters set a goal to raise $10,000 for the USO.

“We figured since college students are always on their phones, this would be an easy way for them to donate to a great organization,” Anderson told al.com. “However, we have also found that parents and other adults are just as willing to donate via a text message.”

Messages from the Front: See What Troops Told the USO About Being Away for the Holidays

It’s hard for civilians to be away from home for the holidays. Now imagine serving in a war zone.

Friend of the USO Eric Raum traveled to the Mideast to talk to troops about what its like to be missing their families during the holidays. He also profiled how the USO gives those troops a little piece of home during a tough time through the USO Holidays for Heroes program.

House1

A Moment Amid a Milestone: USO and What to Expect Creates a Big Day for Military Moms in the D.C. Area

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

SPRINGFIELD, Virginia–Sometimes in life’s biggest moments, it’s the little things that matter most.

Military moms are often far away from family and friends during their pregnancies. Knowing this, the USO and the What to Expect Foundation partner to host Special Delivery baby showers to give these moms a moment of appreciation.

This week, more than 100 new moms and moms-to-be attended Special Delivery baby showers for the Fort Belvoir, Virginia, and Fort Meade, Maryland, military communities.

“It means a lot [to be here],” said Tanya Gehrig at one of this week’s baby showers. Gehrig is a Navy spouse and a proud mom of two sons, including one who was born just 12 days ago. “At this table, I was really able to meet some ladies that I could connect with. It was nice to just meet all of these people.”

House1

Army Maj. Mia Bruner, who is expecting her third child, said she was excited to participate in the event.

“Actually, when I was pregnant with my second child, I saw that they invited pregnant soldiers to these baby showers and really wished I could have attended then,” she said. “I was really happy when I was chosen for this event with this pregnancy.”

Special Delivery attendees enjoyed baby shower games, lunch and baby item raffles. Toward the end of the event, best-selling “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” series author Heidi Murkoff held a candid Q&A, giving advice and tips on topics from pregnancy through a child’s first years. Murkoff even recognized moms in the audience she’d met through the “What to Expect” Facebook page. Murkoff concluded the event with a meet and greet and book signing for the moms in attendance.

The new moms also left with gift bags that included hygiene items for their babies and a storybook. It may not have seemed like a lot, but it made a huge difference to attendees.

“I feel like I should have known that I would need items, but at these events, even the little things help,” Gehrig said. “Some people got big things like strollers and Pack’N Plays [through the raffles], but it means a lot to get a little bottle of lotion and shampoo. It’s one less thing I have to worry about when I am running out to the store. That stuff means a lot to me.”

–By Jessica Battaglia