SPC Armando Zuniga | EUR Region: USO Vicenza, Italy
It’s a familiar story for the USO – a soldier stationed abroad is drawn to the USO for the computers and phones, but from there Specialist Armando Zuniga’s story gets interesting. He decided to help.
At first Zuniga’s help was in the form of telling others about the services the USO offers, and bringing his friends in to utilize the center. Then, Zuniga began cleaning and organizing the center which led to greeting guests and helping with programs. Now, Zuniga has initiated programing at another military post and finished physically intensive projects that he took upon himself to complete.
“What the USO Vicenza staff admires so much about Armando is how willing and helpful he is at the center. We, the USO Vicenza staff, are able to get so much done here at the center, and a lot of that the past couple months would not have been possible without Armando,” said Glenn Gibbs, Center Manager of USO Vicenza.
When he’s not helping out with Taco Tuesday, Wing Wednesday or Bring Your Own Steak Friday, combat engineer Zuniga is sanding picnic tables, organizing the center, offering his restaurant suggestions to curious guests and even cleaning gutters.
Most recently, Zuniga has brought the USO to a whole new audience: single soldiers on the military post Del Din. Without a USO on their post, Zuniga realized the need for morale and welfare. He decided to make it happen by talking to the USO Vicenza staff to host events such as Summer BBQ Bashes, basketball tournaments and Bingo games at Del Din.
“Armando is one of those wonderful volunteers who do not need to be asked to do something,” said Gibbs. And as for a great volunteer, we couldn’t ask for more.
Arnold Sparr | CONUS Region: USO North Carolina
Arnold “Arnie” Sparr of USO North Carolina, Charlotte Center, is proud to always be by the side of our troops, whether they are on their way to the front lines or returning home to their loved ones. Most of the time Arnie helps to ease the jitters of soldier headed off to a danger zone or to put a smile on the face of troop or family member. But sometimes he’s also there to provide care and comfort to the family of a fallen hero.
As a key team member of the Honors Support Team, Arnie doesn’t hesitate to rearrange his schedule at the last minute to be at the side of a grieving family meeting their lost loved. His kindness and support are there to help wives, husbands, children and parents through one of life’s most difficult moments.
He’s also there for the happy times, such as when a fresh-faced recruit proudly hands over his company patch to add to the Charlotte Center display board that Arnie created to hold all the company patches troops have given the USO over the years.
Since he began volunteering more than six years ago, Sparr has donated 3,222 hours to USO of NC, Charlotte Center. In 2013 he has logged the most hours of any volunteer at the center.
“Arnie truly is a selfless individual in all he does. He is loyal, dedicated, and the most passionate person we have seen in our time here at the USO of NC, Charlotte Center. We know that if there is ever a need, Arnie will generously fill that need in any way possible,” said Megan Grady, Charlotte Center Director.
Even though he is only scheduled for one weekly shift, Sparr is usually in the center two to three times a week. Sparr will continue to be always by our troops’ side whenever there is a need.
A1C Brian Bullock | PAC Region: USO Hawaii
We often say that volunteers are the heart and soul of the USO, but now we may need to add one more – the muscle!
A1C Brian Bullock of Hickam Airforce Base in Hawaii handles most of the Coca-Cola donation pick up and deliveries to both the Honolulu International Airport location and the Hickam AFB center. This entails sometimes single handedly picking up 60 cases of water and 60-80 cases of soda each week. Bullock has only been a volunteer since April, and in that short time he has moved 1,260 cases. That’s a lot of hydrated troops!
In the hours that he is not lifting water cases and counting food inventory, Bullock is taking care of another type of inventory – handing out care packages to troops and teddy bears to little ones. With 15,000 troops passing through USO Hickam last quarter, Bullock has been integral in making every member of a large troop movement feel appreciated and comfortable.
Bullock is always available to make sure there is volunteer coverage for both Hickam and Honolulu centers whether through volunteering himself or recruiting others in his unit to volunteer as well.
“Brian provides the best possible service. He is a role model to the other active duty members volunteering within his unit, and has volunteered on holidays and military scheduled off days,” said Charity Howe, USO Hickam Center Manager.
With his bright smile and caring personality Bullock makes sure everyone who visits USO Hawaii feels like they’re part of the USO ‘Ohana, or family, for us mainlanders.
SPC Raymond Castle | SWA Region: USO Kandahar, Afghanistan
It’s over 100 degrees on Kandahar Air Field in Afghanistan on the Fourth of July, and you are a soldier with some rare free time, what do you do? Most would probably go into air conditioning, relax or celebrate. But for Specialist Raymond “RJ” Castle, the answer was to help USO Kandahar host their KAF Splash Fourth of July Event by wearing a Statue of Liberty costume over top of his uniform in the hot sun, and smiling while doing it.
Since May, Castle has donated 433 hours to USO Kandahar. He spends any spare moment contributing his talents, enthusiasm and caring attitude to lift the spirits of his fellow troops. Castle’s easy going attitude and humorous demeanor help all guests relax inside the center. By telling stories of his own family he makes personal connections and encourages other troops to remember the important things in life.
“He is always eager to help center patrons, regardless of their need or situation. When he sees troops who appear to be upset, he is quick to take action to brighten their spirits and encourage them; he is the first to sing, dance and be silly to make troops feel at home in the center,” said Rebecca Medeiros, Volunteer Coordinator of USO Kandahar.
Helping prepare for holiday celebrations, Rage in the Cage Dodgeball Tournaments, volleyball or basketball games, and corn hole tournaments are just a few of the activities that Castle enjoys supporting. Additionally, Castle runs USO Kandahar’s weekly Texas Hold ‘Em Tournament.
When Castle redeploys home USO Kandahar will miss one of their most devoted volunteers … and their Statue of Liberty.