Connecting with Community: USO provides comforts of home for military

Captain Christian Mills

It's hard to imagine the relationship Americans had with the military 75 years ago.  

Life was simpler then and the United States was a simpler place with defined enemies and a clear view of good and evil in the world.

It was against that backdrop that President Franklin Roosevelt urged the corporate community to do something to help service members feel a connection with home, even when they were halfway around the world.

The answer was the United Service Organization, also known as the USO.

Most people think it is a government agency, but it's not. The USO is run privately and operates on contributions from corporations and individuals.

You may know it for the entertainment it provides for troops far away (think "the Bob Hope Christmas Specials") or for the centers it has in major airports around the world, but the USO is also at work every day in just about every military installation around the world.

According to Charles Ridings, the Executive Director of the USO in Indiana: "The USO is the bridge between the American public and the military. Our mission is to keep our military members connected to their families, their home and their country throughout the length of their service."  

Among other things in Indiana, that means a reception center at Camp Atterbury near Edinburgh.

Soldiers can grab a cup of coffee here, a soda, some snacks, and just relax in a lounge area or with a video game. It's all free to them, and for low-level (and low-paid) service member, that means a lot.

Captain Christian Mills has been in the Army for 14 years. He's a National Guard trainer now, and he remembers using USO for the comforts of home when he first left his family shortly after the 9/11 terror attacks. "You can get a meal, you can get a cot, you can get some shut-eye you can get a free phone call to tell your family what you're doing", he said, "to a new soldier, that means everything."

As the U.S. Military commitment around the world has grown over the years, so had the USO commitment to serve them.

US Marine Captain Aaron Remocaldo says he remembers being touched by the organization in a place that he never expected: "I've taken advantages of USO services in some pretty bad areas of Iraq and it just, it's a place where you can feel a little bit like home kind of decompress a little bit."

He's stateside now, but says the encouragement of the organization helped him stay focused on why he was there in the first place.

To honor its 75th Anniversary this year the USO is inviting the rest of us to help in its mission.

It is inviting Americans to help generate one million messages of support and gratitude for the 1.4 million service members stationed around the world.

It's easy and inexpensive for us and priceless for those in the service. You can join the movement by visiting the website