How the USO Benefits Military Members and Their Families
Chances are, you’ve heard of the USO before. The organization is an extremely important one, central to the support and wellbeing of American soldiers and other members of the armed forces. But what most people don’t realize is that beyond the famed USO shows, this organization is extremely prolific in how it helps service members.
Here’s a look at everything you should know about the USO and all of the good it does for the men and women serving America, and their families.
The History of the USO
The United Services Organization (USO) has a lengthy and interesting history. Founded in 1941, prior to America's involvement in World War II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt initiated the start of the organization to unite many service organizations into a single entity. This was done with the purpose of lifting morale and building support on the home front. The organizations that joined forces to form the USO included the following:
- Salvation Army
- Young Men's Christian Association
- Young Women's Christian Association
- National Catholic Community Services
- National Travelers Aid Association
- National Jewish Welfare Board
Since 1941, the USO has operated on a mission to always be on the side of the military members who serve our country—and their family members. Today, the USO has more than 200 centers around the globe, in countries on every continent.
What Does the USO Do?
The USO aids active-duty military members and their families by providing services, programs and entertainment. Some of the assistance offered by the USO includes:
- Operation Phone Home program
- Military spouse programs
- USO care package program
- Transition resources
- Entertainment for the troops
The USO is highly appreciated and utilized by military members and their families. In fact, in 2017, USO centers were visited by service members and family members over 7 million times! The USO is operated by staff and volunteers with funding thanks to generous donations.
Visit the USO website to learn more about why this entity is so highly thought of and utilized, even 70+ years after its establishment. You'll also learn how you can lend a hand. Below, we’ll look at some of the specific programs that continue to make the USO such a force for good within the armed forces.
USO Centers Offer Services and Programs
Serving military members in a multitude of countries, including Afghanistan, Germany, United Arab Emirates, Japan, Kuwait and more, the USO provides a wide array of programs and services. Some of the USO offerings include Internet and phone services, video games, movies and more—basically, a place to relax and find comfort. There are more than 200 established USO centers around the world.
Operation Phone Home Program
The Operation Phone Home Program is a well-known service offered by the USO. This service initially began as a phone card program in 2003. As technology improved, the program was altered in 2009 to add Internet connection and a private phone network. At centers located in combat zones, military members can make free phone calls home and enjoy free Internet connection to catch up with loved ones. Free prepaid international calling cards are still available to those in remote areas not close to a USO center.
Military Spouse Services
It’s difficult when your loved ones are deployed. The USO extends all of its helpful services to the spouses of military service members, to help meet their needs. Two of the most popular military spouse services offered by the USO include military spouse networking events and USO coffee connections, the latter of which is even available in an online format and for those who are overseas.
Care Package Program
Military members who are deployed overseas will usually find themselves missing home at some point. The USO Care Package Program helps to bring home to them. The USO sends care packages to deployed military members to provide comfort and a taste of home. From a snack pack to a toiletry pack, the care packages are both needed and wanted. There are even care packages sent out during the holidays to bring a little holiday cheer to those who are away.
The USO Pathfinder® program helps military members transition to civilian life by helping them find employment, housing, financial stability, and more. This program also helps military spouses with the transition as well. Transitioning from military life to civilian life is a big step, and the USO is there to support every individual during this process.
Entertainment for the Troops
When troops are deployed, the USO ensures that they’re taken care of in many different ways. In addition to the services and programs mentioned above, the USO also arranges for entertainment. This can include singers and musicians, comedians and celebrities, and more. It’s a chance for them to put the daily stresses of their lives behind them and enjoy a moment of levity and entertainment. USO shows have been world famous for decades.
How You Can Support the USO
These are just a few of the ways the USO lends a hand to our military members and their families. But, to offer these programs and provide the level of assistance that it does, the USO also needs the support of American citizens. While the organization is federally funded, it still relies on the generosity of donors to provide the caliber of service it’s known for. If you’d like to support the USO, there are two chief ways you can do it:
- Make a monetary donation directly to the USO. Donations help to fund everything from care packages to the amenities provided at USO centers. One-time donations are always appreciated, and recurring donations are a wonderful way to show your support all year round.
- Volunteer your time! USO events and facilities always need people willing to donate their time and energy to providing service for members of the armed forces. It’s a direct and meaningful way to show your support for those supporting your freedoms.
The USO is one of the longest-running organizations in support of the armed forces. For many service members and their families, it provides instrumental support and resources that they rely on each and every day. In many ways, this organization is a national treasure: one we should all strive to support.
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