USO: 70 years of serving those who serve

by Airman 1st Class Ciara M. Travis
86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Getting better with age? The United Service Organizations reached a milestone when it celebrated its 70th birthday. On Feb. 4, 171 USO centers worldwide celebrated seven decades of service and support to U.S. servicemembers and their families. And like a fine wine, the USO has definitely gotten better “with age,” providing more and more services for military members and their families.

In 1941, the USO was formed as a private organization to take care of on-leave recreation for the U.S. military. Today, the USO continues to serve those who serve and their families — including many more leisure activities than before.

USO centers in the Kaiserslautern Military Community and throughout Europe offer everything from bus tours and cooking classes, to snacks and internet access in the passenger terminal — boosting morale of servicemembers and their families.
“We do it all for the morale of the servicemembers,” said Catherine Messer, USO cooking and baking instructor. “If you’re in a country and you don’t have any support, you can’t enjoy the [experience] while you’re there.”

The tours and classes offered by USO employees and volunteers give military families overseas the opportunity to immerse themselves in their local community.
And while boosting morale of military families overseas is what they’re most known for, the USO also plays a role in the morale of wounded warriors.

“Doing the tours with the wounded warriors center was one of the most rewarding jobs I’ve ever done,” said Elise Schubert, USO assistant tours manager. “These [servicemembers] have risked their lives for the protection of the American freedoms and the American people. I am very appreciative to be able to be a member of the team.”

The volunteer-driven hard work and caring nature makes the USO a place with open doors to military families, wherever they are. “Until every single servicemember and their family members are home, we intend to be here serving them,” said Walter Murren, USO regional vice president. “We will continue to promise that we’ll still be here, doing the best we can to make the quality of your life better until every one comes home.”

The concept for the USO was founded in 1940 by former president Franklin D. Roosevelt to provide morale and recreation services to U.S. military personnel. The six original organizations — the YMCA, YWCA, National Catholic Community Service, the National Jewish Welfare Board, the Traveler’s Aid Association and the Salvation Army all pooled their resources and created the USO within a year.
Now serving worldwide, the USO received more than 7 million visits in 2010 alone, 2 million of which occurred at USO Europe facilities.

With volunteers sharing more than 1-million volunteer-hours, the USO still holds strong to their motto: “Until every one comes home.” For more information on what the USO has to offer, visit