Winter 2024 Newsletter
Welcome to the USO Connection — our supporter newsletters
Here, you can read about how your support makes an impact for those in need. We hope you enjoy these stories. Visit our website to learn how you can support the USO’s programs which are critical to our service members and their families.
Jonathan Marsh’s story
“[From] October 1971 to February 1973, I was right seat pilot C-130 Hercules tactical airlift Vietnam. On December 24, 1971, at Than Son Nhut Air Base just outside Saigon, I was wandering around base and a USO lady gave me a “care package” containing tootsie roll pops, cracker jacks, bazooka bubble gum and more. In the Tu Do section of Saigon was a USO destination offering long forgotten USA goodies.
“At every airport in the USA I passed thru, was a USO lounge catering to active military. In flying around Vietnam, every so often, we carried USO ladies to and from Da Nang to Cam Rahn Bay to Than Son Nhut. These ladies were in the cockpit with the crew, which was a rare opportunity to mix with America’s women.
“In mid-December 1972, on the flight line at Than Son Nhut, maybe 3 people total could be seen, when a C-123 Caraboo (its nose was painted red and Merry Christmas — Happy New Year was painted on its flaps. Santaboo.) pulled into the flight line, parked, the side door opened, stairs lowered and down those stairs walked American USO women in skirts. Several hundred military came out of nowhere heading directly to that Santaboo brightening up the lives of every GI in sight.
“Flying over Da Nang in 1972, we could see hundreds of troops at a huge USO show in progress. Oh, did we wish we were on the ground at that show. USO brightened my life and has brightened the lives of millions of active duty troops away from home for many many years. I have donated to USO small amounts for over 20+ years. [On] May 2, 2023, I arranged with USO the donation of 100 shares of Johnson and Johnson stock ($16,000+) to fund USO with its mission of uplifting the spirits of American troops overseas and at airports scattered throughout the USA.”
We are grateful to Jonathan Marsh for sharing his story this year of the impact the USO had on his experience.
Sailors Aboard the USS George H.W. Bush Have a New USO Center to Call Their Own
When underway, a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier is home to as many as 5,000 personnel — the size of a small city.
Living aboard roughly 4.5 acres and 60,000 tons of floating structural steel for eight months at a time, with very few port visits, leaves little space to get away and find time to yourself. These conditions can be stressful and isolating for sailors who are separated from their family and friends.
That is why the USO and the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush leadership recently held a ribbon-cutting ceremony officially opening the very first aircraft carrier-based USO center on June 6, 2023.
By expanding support to those serving in remote and distant locations, with no access to a traditional, brick-and-mortar USO Center, the USO is helping sailors out at sea feel closer to home.
It is vital to keep service members connected to home, as well as to maintain and boost the morale of the people who serve, especially during long deployments, such as the recent 8.5-month-long deployment experience by the sailors and other military personnel on board the USS George H.W. Bush.
“The USO is a lifeline when deployed,” said Chief Petty Officer Bill Noddin, an aviation electronics technician stationed on the USS George H.W. Bush. “This last deployment was pretty monotonous, but this new USO Center will provide some great options for our sailors to unwind and have fun during their downtime while underway.”
The new USO Center – which will be open while ashore and at sea, includes many of the same amenities as a land-based Center, such as comfortable seating, TVs, video and board games, USO program kits and snacks. The Center is also outfitted with computers and phones to give sailors another way to communicate with their families to further enhance their morale and keep them connected to home.
“Today we celebrate – as a team – the opening of the George Herbert Walker Bush USO Center in our Dorothy Bush Koch library. This is the first USO Center in the Fleet.” said Capt. Dave Pollard, commanding officer of USS George H.W. Bush. “This Center is the latest example of the awesome support the USO provides service members around the world and the impact of the USO on Team Avenger.”
For 83 years, the USO has served the men and women of the U.S. military, and their families, throughout their time in uniform. From the moment they enlist, through their assignments and deployments, the USO is always by their side.
“We operate in more than 250 locations, but this one is special,” said Dr. J.D. Crouch II, USO chief executive officer and president. “We are honored to cut the ribbon on our inaugural ship-based USO Center aboard George H.W. Bush. The USO goes where the men and women of the military go. Now, we can add ‘at sea’ with this center.”
On top of the new USO Center being opened on board the USS George H.W. Bush, the USO hosted a family day, in the hanger bay of the carrier for thousands of sailors and their families to reconnect and enjoy time together. Activities included USO Gaming, axe-throwing, arts and crafts, as well as plenty of snacks and refreshments.
“My family and I are grateful for the USO,” said Noddin. “The USO has always been a great place to go for our children to feel like kids again and interact with other families; the concerts, entertainment and all the programming both virtual and in person helps us to feel like we are normal and not cut off from the rest of the world.”
While the USO does not carry out its mission for the gratitude, these words of thanks emphasize the importance of the support of a grateful nation and its positive impact on service members’ morale and well-being.
No matter where their service takes them – from the front lines in the Middle East to our NATO allies in Eastern Europe, to the wide-open seas – the USO is always by their side.
European Expansion & Family Support Campaign
Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the United States has mobilized U.S. military forces in partner nations in ways unseen since World War II.
There are currently more than 100,000 American service members either deployed or permanently stationed in Europe in support of our NATO allies and Ukraine. The USO seeks your participation in an urgently needed expansion of our mission in Eastern Europe to support troops currently in the region and the vast number who will deploy there over the next decade.
THIS EFFORT REQUIRES:
- New facilities and programs in frontline countries from Finland to Bulgaria, starting with Poland and Romania;
- Expanded logistical hubs and support for training facilities in Germany and other Western European countries where U.S., allied and partner forces will prepare for deployments to Eastern Europe; and
- Expanded family support programming for family members of deployed forces who remain at home.
Why Support This Initiative?
The U.S. military has provided the foundation of a stable world, free of major conflict, since the end of World War II, enabling Americans and American businesses to reap the benefits of stability and access to markets globally. Russia’s unprovoked aggression in Ukraine and its reverberations around the world has shifted the geopolitical landscape, threatening that stability in Europe and putting at risk our NATO allies. The U.S. military has responded by deploying thousands of personnel to Eastern Europe on permanent, rotational, and unaccompanied rotation.
Why the USO?
The USO is responding to requests from the U.S. military to support American service members deployed to Eastern Europe and the families at home who await their return. We are the only nonprofit organization with the experience, access, and longstanding relationship with the U.S. military to undertake this important mission. The USO was included in discussions early on with the Department of Defense and was asked to support operations in early January 2022 — before Russia’s invasion — and we’ve been there ever since. We are uniquely positioned to deliver scalable impact to U.S. service members around the world.
How Is the USO Responding?
With unwavering commitment, the USO has been providing critical morale-boosting support for service members deployed to Eastern Europe and their families on the homefront, providing tens of thousands of USO Care Packages; Wi-Fi and phone access; home-cooked meals; and USO2GO kits featuring games and other activities to encourage relaxation and recharging. Our work also includes programs from gaming to entertainment to our USO Reading Program, providing important connections to family back home.
Our centers are the heart of what we do as an organization, and our footprint in Eastern Europe is no different. USO Centers and our programming portfolio represent a tangible way for service members to take a break from their stressful and often dangerous missions and feel encouragement and caring — not just from friends and loved ones they are able to connect with during their visits, but also from USO donors who have joined together to provide this critical support.
Since 2022, we have completed four new centers in the region, including in countries the USO has never served before. Some locations are too isolated for civilian USO staff members to operate full-time, such as Adazi, Latvia and Pabrade, Lithuania. Here, the USO has opened unstaffed centers, run by active-duty volunteers on a daily basis with twice weekly visits from USO employees who visit the center to coordinate in-person programming, like gaming tournaments, sports and fitness events, and the USO Reading Program. To reach those in the most remote locations, the USO Europe Expeditionary Vehicle delivers supplies to those in tactical assembly areas closer to the Ukrainian border — meeting them where they are, even in the most remote locations.
The USO’s Expansion Strategy in Eastern Europe
The USO’s expansion of services aligns with the U.S. military’s planned expanded force posture, which has required us to increase our expenditures in Eastern Europe. The USO will achieve our strategic objectives in Eastern Europe in phases focused on building new facilities, upstaffing existing centers, and expanding our expeditionary support resources to provide critical support for the increased number of personnel in the region.
We are finalizing Phase Three, which was focused on expanding bases in Eastern Europe to provide long-term support for assigned and rotational forces. During this phase, we are expanding our presence across Romania, Poland, Lithuania and Bulgaria, enhancing our ability to support all countries in Eastern Europe.
In 2024, we will enter Phase Four, focused on mirroring the U.S. military’s strategic presence through a hub and spoke capability, expanding into Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, and Slovakia. We will also increase family support for rotational deployments, increase support of ships out of Spain and Italy, and possibly increase support in Norway, Sweden, Turkey, and Finland.
Eastern Europe & Family Expansion Campaign
To ensure the successful execution of this critical initiative, we have launched a $25 million European Expansion & Family Support Campaign. Commitments to this campaign will transform the level of the USO’s mission delivery in Eastern Europe and enable us to provide support on the homefront for those training for rotational deployments and families facing separation from their deployed loved ones.
It is critical that the USO maintain our presence in Eastern Europe, providing sustained support to our men and women in uniform as part of the Department of Defense’s increased military footprint to confront the ongoing crisis. As an independent, nongovernmental organization, the USO can quickly pivot our network of resources towards the greatest need. In a situation as fluid as this, that flexibility is essential to success.
The USO is the way Americans have shown their support for the sacrifices of our nation’s service members since 1941. As they continue to deploy to preserve the way of life we enjoy, they need that support again.
DON’T NEED YOUR IRA RETIREMENT SAVINGS AS MUCH AS YOU ONCE THOUGHT?
Learn how a Qualified Charitable Distribution (QCD) can benefit you.
You can support our mission for years to come. Simply name the USO as a beneficiary of your IRA account, and the remaining assets (or a portion) of the account will be distributed to help us support those who sacrifice so much.
THE BENEFITS OF A QCD:
- When you take funds from your IRA, they count as taxable income. But if you transfer them directly to charity, you reduce your taxable income while satisfying your RMD.
- After you turn 73, you must distribute funds from your IRA. If you do not distribute the required minimum, you may be penalized, but a QCD allows a transfer up to $105,000 per individual or $210,000 per couple to satisfy your RMD.
- When you make a qualified charitable distribution from your IRA to the USO, you will help support future U.S. service men and women around the world.
“When my husband Dave was a fighter pilot in the Vietnam War, your organization was there with services and holiday shows that meant a lot to him. He never forgot the good works of the USO and I shan’t either. Having the convenience of showing my support with a QCD is an added benefit.” —P. Sullivan, QCD Donor
You learn more about QCDs and see if it is the right option for you, on our website!
JOIN THE USO 1941 LEGACY SOCIETY TODAY
The USO 1941 Legacy Society is a special group of supporters who have made a transformational commitment to strengthen America’s military service members by keeping them connected to family, home and country, throughout their service to the nation. Members of this dedicated group of supporters are not only making a lasting impact on our mission, but are also eligible to receive invitations to special events, exclusive impact reports and recognition in our publications.