How do you say thank you to the brave men and women who serve our country? How do show them how much we appreciate all that they do to provide us the freedoms we enjoy? For almost 70 years, the USO has provided a tangible way for individuals to express their gratitude for military personnel. The mission to “provide morale, welfare, and recreational services to our men and women in uniform, and their families, is the center of everything they do. These services are offered through four USO centers that are located around the state of Indiana. I had the opportunity to spend time at the newest center located here in Fort Wayne
I arrived at the Air National Guard Base, home of the 122nd Fighter Wing, at 1600 hours. This was my first visit to the base and I was excited to be there. It was drill weekend and the base was filled with Air National Guard soldiers and their families. The new USO of Indiana center located on the base was created to give the soldiers a place to gather and have some fun. This newly renovated space features flat screen televisions, air hockey, foosball, and a pool table. Two Xbox’s and games are also set up for troop enjoyment. A small kitchen area consists of a popcorn maker and Coca-Cola fountain machine. The USO uses volunteers to manage the center while soldiers are present. That was my role for the evening.
I acted as host with two other USO volunteers. Our goal was to provide the best service possible to any military personnel who visited the center. We greeted every visitor and ask them to sign in. This gives the USO vision to how many people are served in each facility. We popped popcorn and provided chips, crackers, and drinks for those who stopped in. The base was hosting movie night in a room located just up the stairs from the us so popcorn was a very popular choice. Military personnel and their families spent time together in the center as they waited for the movie to begin. I had the opportunity to visit with different members of the Guard. All were very grateful for the USO and the service that was provided. One individual told me that the center was creating smiles at a time when they are desperately needed. The 122nd is facing many questions right now about its future. The Defense Department recently announced $500 billion in budget cuts which could affect the base. These cuts will feature the elimination of five A-10 fighter jet units, including three from the National Guard. The Fort Wayne base recently transitioned from the F-16 into the current A-10s. The unknown future of the 122nd Fighter Wing has cast a cloud over the base and our community. There has not been much to smile about over the last few weeks. This particular soldier was happy to see the smiles on the faces of the airmen and their families. I felt the same way. The laughter of the children filled the center and brought smiles to everyone in the room.
The USO of Indiana is committed to supporting the men and women who serve our country. After a few hours on the Air National Guard base, I realized just how important these services are. The USO is a non-profit organization that is funded solely by donations raised in Indiana. Hundreds of volunteers work to provide a home away from home for our troops while keeping them connected to family while they are gone. I am honored that I had a chance to support this cause. A cause that I will continue to support long after our project ends. A cause that each and every American needs to support. Men and women leave there families to protect us as citizens of the United States. They walk into harms way to ensure that we, at home, are safe. They deserve all of the support that we can provide. The USO of Indiana’s mission is clear. Wherever and whenever our troops go, the USO will be there. We all need to be there…..until everyone comes home.
Visit www.uso.org and get involved!