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2012 Regional Volunteers of the Year

USO Director of Volunteer Services Betsy McWhirt profiles the 2012 Regional Volunteers of the Year 

SGT Richard Schuh | SWA Region: USO Kandahar

Richard Schuh

Takes a lickin’ and keeps on tickin’. At least that’s what they said about the old Timex watches that got stomped on by elephants and frozen on the ski tips of a professional downhill racer. The lickin’ USO Kandahar’s SGT Richard Schuh took, however, was a little more intense. After he was attacked by small arms fire and rocket propelled grenades, he suffered shrapnel wounds to his side and elbow. During his recovery, SGT Schuh attended a “smoothie” event given by the USO at the Wounded Warrior housing, and he instantly knew he had a calling.

The very next day, Schuh, who wanted to give back to those supporting him as he convalesced, headed to the USO to volunteer. During his first week with the USO, he ran what’s called a 550 Cuff event all by himself, where more than 50 people showed up to make special bracelets. He took the lead creating and organizing an NFL Fantasy Football League, promoted and ran United Through Reading® projects, and recruited other wounded warriors to volunteer. From approximately August 15 through September 3, 2011, he donated a whopping 198 hours to the USO including many 10 to 12-hour days.

There were days when Richard was in excruciating pain, yet he would refuse to take a break because he said working at the USO was a good distraction. In spite of his wounds, he was always courteous and brought out the best in everyone. He served as an inspiration to others showing them that even though you may be wounded, you are still important and vital to the mission.

Selected as Southwest Asia’s Volunteer of the Year, we have a feeling that SGT Richard Schuh is going to be tickin’ for a long time, lifting the spirits of all who encounter him!

SSgt Samuel Lee | EUR Region: USO Kaiserslautern, Germany

SSgt. Samuel Lee

All the chief cooks and bottle washers need to be on guard because there is a new guy in town, Staff Sergeant Samuel Lee from the USO Warrior Center in Kaiserslautern, and he’s raising the bar of service to our warriors in need.

SSgt. Lee is a Mental Health Technician at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center. And though it’s not unusual for him to work a 16-hour shift, he is so devoted to the wounded warriors he treats that he spends nearly every free moment at the USO Warrior Center to create a lively and fun environment for injured service members. Matter of fact, he often escorts patients to and from the center himself because he sees the healing power a special USO event or program can bring.

His initiative to get as many patients into the center as possible has dramatically increased the morale of the wounded warriors on his ward and has helped shorten their recovery time. He encourages these soldiers to relax by playing video games or strumming the guitar. He sometimes even plays along with them. He has an easy and opened manner and his zest for life creates fun and laughter all around.

SSgt. Lee has that unique ability and a personality that distinguishes him from the crowd. He willingly takes on any task that is asked including cooking, cleaning, stocking, decorating, assisting with gaming equipment, and, at times, running the center when staff gets pulled away. Most importantly, he shows an exceptional level of compassion and ability to communicate with wounded warriors.

Whether Lee is up in the air escorting patients back to the U.S. for further treatment, or on the ground literally cooking and bottle washing, he’s there for our injured service members every step of the way.

Bob Murphy | CONUS Region: USO of Metropolitan New York, New York

Bob Murphy

Some folks get nervous when they hear the term “fishing expedition,” worrying that someone is going to uncover embarrassing or damaging information about them. Others think about the story of the “one that got away.” But for Bob Murphy of USO Metropolitan New York, the term "fishing expedition" means an opportunity to ramp up the USO’s support for America’s troops and their families.

A few years ago, Bob established the annual “USO Open” bass fishing tournament held throughout the northeast at venues such as Lake Champlain, Lake George and the Hudson River to promote the USO among fishing enthusiasts and raise money. He has also manned a USO table at “The World Fishing Exposition” at Rockland Community College. His efforts have raised more than $10,000 in donations for USO of Metropolitan New York.

Bob seems to have boundless energy and always steps in to fill a variety of needs, including last minute holes in the schedule, deployments, homecomings, golf outings, galas and other special events. During Fleet Week, Bob was stationed full time at Staten Island’s Home Port, overseeing hospitality and welcoming sailors and marines to New York City.  Bob graciously provides transportation to other USO volunteers trying to get into the city from New Jersey, and can often be seen transporting the USO Liberty Bells to and from entertainment events. He believes there is nothing more important than the USO “being there” which is why he’s willing to drive other volunteers to the ends of the earth to boost the morale of our troops.

After a tour of Vietnam with the 25th Infantry Division of the Army and a career as a firefighter from Hackensack, NJ, Bob has first-hand experience of the challenges faced by today’s service members. With a son currently in the Air Force, he can also relate to the families of those currently deployed. These connections allow him to provide service to our troops and their families with great empathy and compassion.

Don’t let Bob’s kindness fool you though. If you are a “fish” on the other end of his pole, he will adeptly “bait” you in to support USO of Metropolitan New York any way he can. And no fish is too small or large to help him meet the mission of lifting the spirits of America’s troops and their families.

Heeyoung Lim | PAC Region: USO Camp Walker-Daegu, Korea

Heeyoung Lim

For some US service members, being stationed overseas can feel a little like a chapter out of the novel Gulliver’s Travels. Troops are suddenly in a strange new world where everything looks, feels, sounds and tastes different. And like our story’s protagonist who explored the islands of Lilliput, Brobdingnag, or the Country of the Houyhnhnms, it’s hard for newly-arrived soldiers to know how to “navigate” so many cultural differences.

In steps Heeyoung Lim to the rescue from Camp Walker in Deagu, Korea. Her warm and generous personality instantly breaks down cultural barriers for visitors to the USO. And with her strong bilingual skills, she helps our men and women in uniform adjust to life in Korea by giving them useful information about public transportation, local eateries, and Korean customs and business practices. Sometimes just a simple translation from Korean to English in a routine matter can mean the world to a confused service member.

Seeing a need, Ms. Lim recently ran a program for the Camp Walker community that she named “Korean Traditional Market Tour.” She organized an outing to one of Deagu’s largest outdoor markets so service members could get a taste and feel for everyday Korean life. She helped participants identify and taste foods produced by street vendors as well as introduced them to the art of bargaining. This program was so successful that the Camp Walker military command expressed interest in learning more.

Heeyoung Lim’s enthusiasm for Korean culture and cross-cultural experiences transport Camp Walker’s Korean experience from inside the USO center to outside the gates of the installation. By helping troops feel more integrated into the culture, she is able to create that feeling of a “home away from home” so vital to the military community.

Too bad Gulliver didn’t have Ms. Lim at his side when he landed on Lilliput or Brobdingnag. She would have helped him see that no matter how different our cultures may be, we are equally human at the core.

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