Morale: September 3, 2004

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The USO is still helping out the troops. The USO (United Service Organizations) has combined donated time, and money, to provide aid and comfort for members of the United States armed forces. Formed in early 1941, the services dont refer to the army and navy, but to the YMCA, YWCA, National Catholic Community Service, the National Jewish Welfare Board, the Traveler's Aid Association and the Salvation Army. All these organizations wanted to make life easier for all the young men and women joining the armed forces in anticipation of American entry into World War II. So they formed a separate organization, the USO, to coordinate their efforts. Now, 63 years later, the USO is still at it. For example, in the last two years, the USO has distributed 300,000 Care Packages to troops headed to Iraq and Afghanistan. The contents (prepaid international calling cards, disposable cameras, toiletries, snacks and playing cards) were selected based on what the troops wanted most. The USO also has opened information/assistance/rest centers for troops in Kuwait, Qatar and Vicenza, Italy. Similar centers are also found in 125 locations world wide, including six mobile canteens, 71 in the continental United States, three in the Caribbean and 51 overseas. The centers always show up where American troops are concentrated during wartime. 

The thing most people remember about the USO is the USO Shows. Over half a million of these have been put on, many with major entertainment talent. Bob Hope regularly went off on these tours for half a century. They are still popular with the troops, as the shows are put together based on the kind of music and entertainment the audience wants. The USO is a uniquely American organization. Most of its staff are volunteers (95 percent, or 12,000 people). And all the money is donated. No government bureaucrats in sight, which is probably why the USO has lasted so long.

 


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