The USO (United Service Organization) is a wonderful program that is focused on helping men and women in the Armed Forces stay connected to family and their country. President Franklin D. Roosevelt founded the USO in 1941 to lift the morale of military members while in uniform. The USO is chartered by Congress but relies heavily on private donations to function. Today, there are over 200 USO centers in many countries on every continent.
When service members are deployed, it can be hard for many to stay motivated. This is one of the reasons the USO was founded. Servicemen and women benefit from having some normalcy and happiness while away from their families or in the middle of a war zone.
Keeping morale high in times of increased stress and danger is important for members of our military.
The Role of the USO for Soldiers and Families
Aside from the most popular images of the USO-featured celebrities, the organization provides many services. For deployed soldiers, the USO has created a foundation called the Bob Hope Legacy that allows deployed soldiers to connect with their families back home by reading to their children via voice or video chat. These same soldiers can also opt to have their voice pre-recorded and shipped back home to their children and loved ones.
Another famously popular tradition of the USO is the care packages they put together. These special boxes of love can include a number of items like holiday decorations, snacks, games and so much more.
Early on, the USO started enlisting musicians and actors to volunteer their time and energy toward lifting the soldier’s spirits. Everything from concerts to stand-up comedians has been brought to troops across the world who are deployed and in-need of some rest and relaxation.
USO Corporate Partners
As a nonprofit organization, the USO is always open to corporate sponsorship. AT&T has donated over 76 million minutes to our service members and has supported the USO for over 25 years. Minutes donated come in the form of prepaid international phone cards available for use for any members that are stationed in remote areas of the world.
Coca-Cola, Jeep and Kroger are among several others considered part of the President’s Circle of corporate partners. This means they donate more than $1,000,000 each year to the USO. There are over 100 corporations that give to the USO each year.
Famous Faces of the USO
Scarlett Johansson is one of the many contemporary celebrities closely associated with the USO. She volunteered through two USO tours. 2016 marked the year Scarlet joined forces with many other celebrities to participate in the USO Chairman’s Holiday Tour. Part of her job during the tour was to meet with the soldiers and talk with them. Often this includes a Q & A session where Scarlett has mentioned how honored she is to be around the troops.
Active members are likely to see this celeb again on future USO tours.
Another wildly famous face of the USO is Bryan Cranston. Not only a popular actor, he is also a screenwriter, director, producer and a New York Times best-selling author. 2017 marks the first year he went on tour. Cranston spent an entire week in Germany and the United Kingdom getting to know soldiers from all walks of life. Not only did he get to spend his time meeting with over 2,500 men and women in uniform, but he also ate his meals with them. He spent a lot of time greeting and talking with military medical staff and got to tour the flight line.
Elizabeth Banks is a well-known American actress, best known for her roles in 30 Rock, Zack and Miri Make a Porno and Role Models. In addition to her amazing acting career, many will be surprised to learn she also takes an active role in the USO and has been on several tours.
In 2015 she was lucky enough to join the USO Joint Chiefs of Staff and travel during the holidays to Italy, Germany, Afghanistan, Bahrain and Djibouti. When her movie Pitch Perfect was coming out, she paired up with Universal Pictures to host a premier for service members.
The NBA has been partnering with the USO for almost 15 years. The NBA and the USO developed a program called Hoops for Troops. The program lasts all year long, dedicated to serving and improving communities around active and retired military families. Many of the teams are centered on basketball-related fitness; veterans are encouraged to participate as well.
The Dallas Mavericks specifically partner with DFW military locals to pack and deliver over 10,000 meals to feed hungry families in Dallas through a program called Feeding Families Everywhere.
Toby Keith has entertained 250,000 troops in 17 countries while touring with the USO. Keith released “Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue (The Angry American),” which caught the eyes of not only the USO but many other Americans and military members.
Since then, he has focused a lot of his time on supporting the USO. Not only is he known for his USO efforts, he is well recognized as a great humanitarian, providing assistance and raising money for victims of natural disasters.
Trace Adkins is another famous country star who has volunteered with the USO for over 10 years. His efforts at being a standout advocate for military servicemen have not gone unnoticed.
In 2016 he was awarded the National Defense Industrial Association’s Dwight D. Eisenhower Award. Despite his fame and fortune, he is described by servicemen as down to earth and humble.
Trace is also known to meet with families of fallen soldiers and visit the wounded.