Half my family is in the middle of a going-home-to-see-family adventure. Several things haven't gone quite as planned, and so I find myself unexpectedly in Newark, New Jersey, waiting for two of my children to successfully get off the ground on their way to my families. When I got here, I asked for directions to the USO. The information person didn't know what I was talking about, but after a few more inquiries I discovered that there is no USO here. I was really sad because the USO has been such a good friend to me over years of travelling around the world.
If you're not familiar with the USO, or only know about some of their activities, it would be worthwhile to learn about the activities of this group. It is an amazing, volunteer- and donation-based organization that provides support to military servicemembers and their families all over the world. The USO offers program specifically targeting transitioning troops, deployed troops, military families, ill or injured troops, and the families of the fallen.
Transitioning TroopsFor troops leaving military service, the USO offers education, employment, and community reintegration programs including the Hire Heros USO/USA Workshops, Career Opportunity Days, Purpose Driven Rehab, Rivers of Recovery and the Wyakin Warrior Foundation. The USO also supports family strengthening programs.
Deployed TroopsIf you've been deployed to a challenging location, chances are you've benefitted from some USO programs. Current and recent offerings include:
- Free Afghan Languages Program
- Mobile Entertainment Gaming System
- Operation Phone Home™
- Pro vs. GI Joe is an online video game competition that pairs deployed military folks with celebrity professional athletes,
- USO Holiday Boxes
- USO in a Box is a self-contained unit that offers the services of a full USO location,
- USO Photo Book lets families at home create small, personalized photo books to be mailed to their deployed soldier, sailor, airman or Marine,
- more than 1300 USO2GO boxes have been delivered to remote locations, providing recreation and relaxation for service members serving in the most challenging places.
Military FamiliesThe USO supports families in so many ways. From their United Through Reading program, that allows a deployed parents to make a video of themselves reading to their children, to new spouse orientation programs offered at selected bases, the USO is there to support military families. As I said in the beginning, their airport locations have provided me with a safe place to rest (what a blessing when travelling with small ones), cold drinks, and a place to put my luggage while waiting. I love the USO airport locations! Other programs include:
- Family Strengthening Programs
- Mobile USO
- Operation Phone Home™
- Sesame Street
- USO Photo Book
- With You All the Way
Ill and Injured TroopsFor troops that are ill or injured, the USO offers behavioral health, recreation, family strengthening, education, and employment programs.
Families of the FallenFamilies of fallen servicemembers are eligible for most of the USO's other programs. In addition, the USO helps facilitate emergency travel for the families of fallen troops and has worked to strengthen the services and facilities available for families who meet their fallen heroes at Dover Air Force Base. Once they've returned home, the USO continues their support with assistance programs and summer camps for kids.
There is really much more to the USO than I could possibly fit in a post here at The Paycheck Chronicles. Take five minutes and look through their website to learn more about the ways that the USO can help your family.
For now, I'm thankful that I could tell my kids, "If you get stuck, there is a USO in the airport." Thank you, USO, for caring for us all!