Volunteers Ready to Serve at New USO Warrior & Family Center

The largest USO Center ever built!

The largest USO Center ever built!

“Give the service member 100% of your attention.”  I wrote this down during today’s volunteer training at the new Fort Belvoir USO Warrior and Family Center.  Simple statement, HUGE impact.

I was attending training to better understand the new Center and all of its features, but in my head I kept circling back to that statement.  “100% of your attention.”  I was having a hard time devoting 100% of my attention to the training!  My virtual to-do list racing through my head:  Did that reporter email me back?…What is the deadline on that press release?…Expense reports are due!

Of course, for these volunteers, devoting time and attention to our nation’s troops and their families is second nature.  350 individuals signed up to volunteer at the new Warrior and Family Center in just a few short months, all before the Center is even open.  350 Washington, DC area residents.   Moms, dads, retirees, college students- all with one thing in common: a desire to support our nation’s men and women in uniform.

This new Center may be unique in size (the largest USO Center in history) and design (20 rooms with unique functions and purpose), but it shares something in common with our more than 160 USO locations around the globe- our volunteers will serve as the heart and soul of the Center.

From our active duty military who work patrols in the field during the day and spend their free evening volunteering in our Centers in Afghanistan and Kuwait, to the many military spouses who take time away from their own families to support those deployed troops serving in Europe and the Pacific regions, to the volunteers stateside who serve “no dough dinners” at USO Centers on military installations.  We also can’t forget the airport volunteers who greet traveling service men and women with hot coffee and a comfortable seat, and those volunteers that we hope to never meet, those who take the call, anytime, day or night, and support the families receiving their fallen soldier.

These individuals, thousands of them around the globe, are the life force of every USO Center.  They give 100% of their attention to our nation’s heroes.  I don’t know your names, but I know your passion.  You do what so many of us cannot, devote fully of yourself and your talents.  Thank you for your service. - Andrea Sok, USO Communications Manager

** See what volunteer opportunities are available near you at USOVolunteer.org! **

USO Hawaii Volunteer Honored for 25 Years of Service

For most of America’s active-duty troops, 25 years seems like a lifetime. For George Villa, its been a rewarding chapter in a life of service.

George Villa, center left, and USO Hawaii Director Leigh Graham, center right, are seen at the Dec. 1 Service Salute in Hawaii. USO photo

George Villa, center left, and USO Hawaii Director Leigh Graham, center right, are seen at the Dec. 1 Service Salute in Hawaii. USO photo

Villa was honored at USO Hawaii’s Service Salute on Dec. 1, where he received a USO Lifetime Achievement Award for his 25-plus years of service to the organization along with the USO Hawaii Volunteer of the Year award.

“George is undeniably a key part of our operations in the Honolulu center,” USO Hawaii Director Leigh Graham said in a recent email.

Now 85 years old, Villa still commutes to the Honolulu International Airport via public transportation four days a week to perform his volunteer duties. Villa volunteered for 1,850 hours in the past year and a half, where he “provides directions, tips on places to visit, ideas on things to see, secrets on best places to eat and directions on how and where to catch ‘The Bus!’” according to a citation in the Service Salute program.

—Eric Brandner, Director of Story Development

Service After Service: Martin Van der Hoek

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.

USO South Carolina volunteer Army Capt. Martin Van der Hoek

As a service member who has had to opportunity to see the USO in action both at home and overseas, I don’t think that I can ever speak (or write) enough to emphasize the importance and selflessness of the USO and all of its volunteers.

I recall the comfort and sense of home and community that the USO was able to provide to myself and fellow soldiers. Because of this, I find that it is vital for veterans to engage themselves in their local USOs to help out.

This serves two purposes: it gives back to the organization that gives so much in the way of service to our military family and it helps create bonds between the organization and its clients. To be able to walk into a USO and see that there are people there who can connect with you, joke around and share the same common bonds is a wonderful feeling. It also helps the families, who may be separated from their loved ones due to training, deployments or a number of other reasons. They can sit down and chat with volunteers about places that they may both have lived, restaurants and vacation spots they have shared, and it can really drive home that bond and that sense that no matter where they are, the USO stands ready to serve them.

Finally—and perhaps most important—is the sheer power that veterans bring to the USO in their words, their commitment and their actions. I think if you asked around, you would find that there are no better spokesmen for the USO than our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and members of the U.S. Coast Guard. These men and women know firsthand the comfort and the countless efforts made day in and day out by USO volunteers worldwide to bring some joy to their lives and the lives of their families. Because of this, they can perfectly and succinctly explain to an interested party just how beneficial they could be by volunteering with the USO. And just like that, you have yourself another fantastic and energized volunteer!

—Army Capt. Martin Van der Hoek
USO South Carolina Volunteer

Service After Service: Ron Corbin

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.

Ron Corbin

I have experienced the gamut of deployments and welcome home ceremonies, both as a veteran as well as the parent of two sons who served their country. I am a former Army helicopter pilot having served two tours in Vietnam (1966-67, and 1969). I know firsthand the emotions of leaving a new bride after only a few months of marriage, and then a year later departing again to a combat zone. I’ve felt the elation of returning home to only a “Welcome” by family, and the sting and bitterness of an unsupportive nation during an unpopular war.

As a father, I’ve also experienced the anxiousness of sending off my oldest son—a Marine—and my youngest son—a sailor—to war during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Being a parent in this situation, the worry and concern for sending off children into harm’s way was more difficult to deal with than being sent to combat myself. After enduring the anticipation of their return from overseas, it is an indescribable feeling when they finally step off the plane or ship and are safe at home.

I’ve always said war is a young man’s game played with rules made by old men. Now, at the age of 66, I can give something back to the young men and women who are spouses, sons, daughters and maybe even parents themselves of our brave troops. I can empathize with almost every aspect of what it means for someone to serve our nation in the armed forces.

This is my reward for volunteering at the USO. It pays my heart in full.

—Ron Corbin
USO Las Vegas Volunteer

Georgia Couple Rallies Support for USO

Jack and Pat Solomon, decade-long USO Georgia volunteers, at their home outside of Atlanta, GA. USO photo by Joseph Andrew Lee

If you are in the military and have spent any time at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, you have probably been hugged at least once by Pat Solomon.

She and her husband Jack–a graduate of West Point–are two of the many friendly, welcoming and warm couples who volunteer at USO Georgia. For the past 10 years, the Solomons have worked at least three days per week at the Atlanta airport USO, but more recently they have embarked on a new mission—fundraising.

Throughout the summer the Solomons will travel over 1,000 miles to visit more than 100 Kangaroo Express stores in Georgia, dropping off USO fundraising materials and engaging with employees to officially launch the Kangaroo Express Salute Our Troops campaign.

Involving more than 1,600 Kangaroo Express stores, the Salute Our Troops campaign is the largest grassroots fundraising initiative the USO has ever participated in, raising $1.3 million for the USO in its first year.

From Memorial Day to Labor Day, custom painted vehicles and decorated veterans of the recent wars will travel throughout the South capturing the attention of Kangaroo Express guests and educating the public on problems facing the military and military families.

According to USO account manager Kirk Parker, the campaign has been such a success because of patriots like the Solomons who literally go the extra mile to develop a personal relationship with Kangaroo Express staff and management of every store in their area.

“We do what we can do here because these men and women are doing what they can over there,” said Jack Solomon. “Our small contribution of time and gas pales in comparison to the sacrifices being made by our sons and daughters overseas. It’s our way of saying ‘Thank You’ to them for volunteering to serve. Not everyone can, and not everyone will. We must recognize and honor this.”

“She (Pat) is the biggest military cheerleader you’ve ever seen,” he added. “She absolutely lives and breathes the USO and the support for our troops. We believe that energy is contagious—it can be spread to the staff of Kangaroo so that they bring the same energy toward troop support you might find at an actual USO.”

“He is the reason I do it,” said Pat. “He and every other American who has ever served this country—I love them all.” — By Joseph Andrew Lee, USO Staff Writer

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VFW Firefighter of the Year Recognized for USO Volunteerism

Recently named Price George's County VFW Firefighter of the Year, Nicole Orme, stands among troops at Ft. Meade during a USO Thanksgiving Dinner there.

She is a wife, a mother, a firefighter and fund raiser.

Don’t forget patriot and volunteer.

Nicole Orme doesn’t have any family or close friends in the military, but she feels giving back to those who sacrifice so much for us is just “the right thing to do.”

We agree. And so does the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

In fact, the VFW recently recognized Orme as Firefighter of the Year in Prince George’s County, Maryland, for volunteering at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and with the USO of Metropolitan Washington at Fort Meade.

“Orme has as a history of serving our fellow soldiers,” said the VFW in a press release. “She makes her family, Department, and community very proud.”

Last year Orme mobilized the Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Department and her local community to create and send military care packages to hundreds of troops serving overseas through her local USO. One soldier even took the time to write her back, thanking her and letting her know how much his whole unit appreciates the care packages.

“When he returned to the States, I had the opportunity to meet him in person,” said Orme. “He brought me back a flag that was flown above his post. I cherish that flag so much. Every time I see it, my heart is warmed knowing that I brought a smile to that soldier when he needed it most.”

She has made multiple visits to the fourth floor of the military hospital to present care packages to wounded warriors and their families, and she has worked extensively with the USO at Fort Meade, coordinating multiple dinners during Thanksgiving and Christmas, feeding hundreds of soldiers unable to go home for the holidays.

At an awards ceremony last month, each of the four VFW post commanders in Prince George’s County presented Orme with a separate certificate and monetary gift for her selfless contributions to our men and women in uniform.

“I am both humbled and grateful to be recognized for doing something I absolutely love,” said Orme. “I always wanted to say ‘thank you’ to our men and women in uniform, and the easiest way to do that was to get involved with the USO. The fact is, if people like us don’t do this, no one will.” – By Joseph Andrew Lee, USO Staff Writer