Sgt. Raul Zubicaray | SWA Region: USO Camp Buehring, Kuwait
If the networks ever do a remake of that old TV series "MacGyver" where our hero could jury rig just about anything to save the day, then they need look no further than USO Camp Buehring's Raul Zubicaray for the starring role. If it's broken, he can fix it. If it needs building, he can build it. If it needs to be acquired, he can find it. Matter of fact, anything that needs "macgyvering," Sergeant Zubicaray's the man.
Raul is a self-motivated, take-charge kind of person who has the gift of seeing what needs to get done and then does it. He's always looking for ways to improve the USO at Camp Buehring both visually and ergonomically. He was part of a team that created a new front desk at the center so that more space could be freed up for troops to relax, read books or write letters home as they sit by the fireplace or get comfy on one of the couches.
He helped improve the movie theater by mounting a TV on the wall and installing speakers to generate better sound, and he devised a system to prevent damage from the constant plugging and unplugging of music room equipment. He fixes everything including the PS3™ controllers, PlayStations®, computers, phones, chairs and anything electronic. And after arriving at noon to set up the center for the New Years Eve party, he stayed until 0300 the next morning to put everything back in place and fix any damaged areas.
Whenever the center gets new volunteers, they always ask, "Who is that guy fixing everything?" Of course, that guy is Raul. But even with the 1,800 hours of volunteer service he's donated to the USO, the excellent customer service he provides, the motivation he instills in others, and his excellent leadership, he still finds time to serve in other ways such as patrolling the base for the Sexual Assault Prevention program to create a safe environment for all his fellow service members.
So, if you are looking for a resourceful kind of person to solve complex problems with everyday materials, know-how and an all around great personality, stop by USO Camp Buehring next time you are in Kuwait. You'll probably be greeted by Raul Zubicaray with a smile – along with a little duct tape and a Swiss Army knife in his pocket.
Heeyoung Lim | PAC Region: USO Camp Walker-Daegu, Korea
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.
Pat Solomon | CONUS Region: USO Atlanta, Hartsfield/Jackson Airport, Georgia
Pat Solomon of USO Atlanta is the quintessential volunteer. No flash in the pan. No one-trick pony. No high vis projects. Just a steady, enduring person who gives 120% of herself each and every time – whether asked or not.
You may have seen her in the Wall Street Journal or in a reprint by the Associated Press distributed worldwide from hometown gazettes to the San Francisco Inquirer doing what she does best—greeting soldiers at the Atlanta Hartsfield Airport USO. Anyone viewing this front page, four column shot could not doubt the heartfelt gratitude she lavishes on young soldiers, or the motherly touch she brings to her work.
Pat is a resource of "goodness" no matter what task she is undertaking. Although quiet by nature, this woman has no limits and will never say "no" to a mission to lift the spirits of troops and their families. She makes a weekly 70 mile roundtrip to pick up gourmet sandwiches from Le Cordon Bleu cooking school to serve in the USO. On multiple occasions she has remained at the center for more than 24 hours when airport and weather disruptions grounded soldiers and families who were left with nowhere to turn but the USO. She's the first in line to take on the early morning duties such as a 5:30 a.m. arrival of a Marine unit returning from Afghanistan or an all-day air show event. Ninety-six degree Georgia weather seems to have no affect on her enthusiasm to support our men and women in uniform.
If she’s not providing goodness, she's helping to secure it. At the 4th of July Kroger event, she personally raised over $2,000, spending three six-hour days coaxing donations from shoppers. And at her own initiative, she approached the Sandy Springs Open Air Market to set up a USO booth where she raised several hundred dollars.
Perhaps Pat Solomon’s greatest gift to the USO is her work with the Families of the Fallen. Her genuine kindness provides comfort to families making the difficult journey to meet their fallen loved ones. It takes a special kind of person to support others in their grief, and no one can do it better than Pat.
Whether she’s waiving her pompoms to cheer on our soldiers, or holding a spouse’s hand at a moment of need, Pat is unquestionably priceless and precious to us all.
SSgt Samuel Lee | EUR Region: USO Kaiserslautern, Germany
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.