USO Wisconsin Helps Those Who Defend Our Freedom

I had the honor a few weeks ago to attend the grand opening of the new United Service Organizations (USO) service center at Forward Operating Base Freedom at Fort McCoy.  I met military personnel from all over the country, and got to share a picnic lunch with the troops. It was a great chance to learn more about USO Wisconsin, which has been supporting our service men and women since 1943. 

When we think of the USO, some of us will remember Bob Hope entertaining troops at bases all over the world.  When America entered WWII, a number of organizations mobilized to provide support to the millions of young men and women who were on the move to training bases and overseas deployments.  At the urging of President Roosevelt, the USO was formed to avoid duplicated efforts and help channel the tremendous outpouring of energy from volunteers who wanted to do their part to help our troops.

Ever since then, the USO, relying on volunteers and donations, has been providing food, entertainment, comfort, and support to our service men and women, both here at home and around the world.  The USO is not a government organization, but it is recognized by the Department of Defense, Congress, and the President of the United States, who serves as the group’s honorary chairperson.  The USO still provides food and entertainment to troops, but today it provides a range of other services as well, including preparing new recruits for military life, providing communication services to troops in the field, helping returning veterans transition to civilian life, supporting wounded veterans, and comforting the families of fallen soldiers.

Here in Wisconsin, four centers serve more than 25,000 military families throughout the state.  Thousands of Wisconsin service men and women and their family members visit the USO center at General Mitchell Field, where they can relax and enjoy snacks, books, movies, video games, and free Wi-Fi.  The center at the Military Entrance Processing Center in Milwaukee meets the needs of all Wisconsin recruits from every branch of the military, and also provides transitioning services to returning veterans as well as support for military families.

The newest facilities at Fort McCoy include two combat-simulated USOs on the training field, where trainees can relax, phone home, and even check their email.  There’s also an Internet Café at Fort McCoy where troops can use their smart phones and tablets while they enjoy a cup of coffee.  To commemorate the vital role the organization plays in the lives of our troops and their families, I will be introducing a resolution declaring a USO Wisconsin Month.

As it has for 72 years, the USO depends on private contributions and volunteer support.  USO of Wisconsin is incorporated separately and raises all of its own funds here in the state. There are many different ways to volunteer, from being a center attendant to helping with administrative and fundraising tasks to staffing special events.  The USO Wisconsin website, usowisconsin.org, makes it easy to find out about volunteer opportunities and to make a contribution. There’s no better way to celebrate our nation’s birthday than by showing our gratitude to the men and women who defend our freedom and liberty, and there’s no better way to do that than by recognizing the important mission of the USO and USO of Wisconsin.