USO Wisconsin Month Celebrates 75 Years of Service
By State Senator Julie Lassa
I had the chance to travel to La Crosse a couple of weeks ago to take part in a ceremony marking the opening of the new United Service Organizations (USO) facility at the La Crosse Regional Airport. The center will serve as a VIP lounge for service members and their families traveling to Fort McCoy and across the state. This new facility is a wonderful addition to the USO’s presence in Wisconsin, as it continues its historic mission of serving those who serve our country.
During the ceremony, I was honored to be able to present the official legislative resolution proclaiming February, 2016 as USO Wisconsin Month. I authored the resolution, which passed the Legislature in January, in commemoration of the founding of the USO 75 years ago this month.
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, the USO was formed to avoid duplicated efforts and help channel the tremendous outpouring of energy from volunteers who wished to support the millions of young men and women who were on the move to training bases and overseas deployments. 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.
The Senate Joint Resolution I presented makes note of the fact that in 2014 alone, USO Wisconsin welcomed nearly 18,000 servicemen and women to its centers and had over 10,000 participants in its various programs designed to assist service members and their families.
As it has for three quarters of a century, 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. Volunteers are needed to staff the La Crosse Airport facility as well as USO centers at Fort McCoy. 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. USO Wisconsin Month will be a great opportunity for all of us to learn more about this important organization and its ongoing mission to serve military service people and their families.