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2013 USO Volunteer of the Year

USO Director of Volunteer Services Betsy McWhirt and USO Manager of Volunteer Operations Sarah Kemp profile the 2013 USO Volunteer of the Year. 

GySgt Jeremiah Johnson | PAC Region: USO Camp Hansen, Okinawa

2013 USO Volunteer of the Year GySgt Jeremiah Johnson

When military families are separated, even the biggest, burliest, toughest Marine can get misty-eyed at the thought of a son or daughter that is far away.  To ease the homesick hearts of deployed parents, GySgt Jeremiah Johnson, a USO volunteer at Camp Hansen in Okinawa, has ensured that the United Through Reading's Military Program is available to service members at all hours of the day and night, so they can read a book to the special children in their lives, record it on a DVD and send it back home.

This is just one of the many volunteer duties GySgt Johnson has cheerfully taken on since arriving on the island. And it matters not if it's 12 noon, or 12 midnight. If Johnson is available, he's at the USO. His talents as a chef led him to initiate Camp Hansen's "Midnight Munchies" program where Saturday night revelers can visit the USO, get some chow and stay out of mischief. He's also become quite the barbeque pit master, grilling for his fellow service members during special events or the power outages that sometimes accompany typhoons that have hit Okinawa.

Johnson seems to have breathed new life into the Camp Hansen USO center, not only with his enthusiasm, but by literally bringing new volunteer recruits through the door. While on temporary duty assignment at the Camp Hansen Academies for advanced training, he recruits a constant stream of new volunteers to the center through the academies program. He serves as a terrific role model for customer service by treating each guest with great care and attention, but also brightens the mood with his light-hearted demeanor.

He's also done a vast majority of center improvement projects such as pressure-washing the building, prepping the walls for paint, decorating the United Through Reading® room and renovating the staff break room. He acts as a liaison between the USO and his Sgt. Major on the need for USO volunteers and support, and his role as a goodwill ambassador continues to increase the popularity and foot traffic of the center.

His good cheer and passion may defy the tough-guy Marine image, but if he serves his country with the same dedication as he serves the USO, we couldn't be in better hands.

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