As families gather for the holidays, some will face a conspicuous absence; their mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, uncles, aunts or cousins can’t make it home because they are serving abroad.
Military service requires sacrifice, but service members feel the distance between themselves and their loved ones most keenly on holidays. While families enjoy holiday feasts and gift exchanges, they should remember to support the members of the military whose jobs keep them far from home, in many different parts of the world, including Afghanistan, Korea, Japan, Germany and Iraq.
The United Service Organizations supports the troops through the year. Although most people do not realize it, the USO is a nonprofit organization that depends on individual and corporate donations. This grassroots funding and the support of 44,000 volunteers are the lifeblood that enables the USO to ease the burden placed on the troops and their families.
“Meeting these brave young men and women, I’m amazed at the great job they do, serving so far from home, family and friends, working tirelessly for months on end,” says USO President Sloan D. Gibson. “As I visited with them and learned more about their lives, their children and their families, the sacrifices they make on our behalf, their stories become even more remarkable.”
The USO operates centers around the world to help support military members and their families. In 2007, more than 7 million troops and their family members received support from 135 centers around the world. The USO also sends entertainment tours overseas to lift troop spirits.
“We have created expeditionary programs to deliver to our troops serving in the most remote locations,” Gibson says. “Programs like our new ‘USO in a Box’ provide them with the feeling of home away from home.”
In addition to care packages, the USO hands out prepaid phone cards. When troops return home, USO volunteers meet them at airports, guaranteeing that they come home a hero. Other programs let deployed service members record videos of themselves reading stories to their children.
To learn how you can brighten the season for military members and their families, visit www.uso.org.