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Hagel: ‘Astounding Commitment’ of USO Volunteers is Inspirational

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

By Eric Brandner   

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has three perspectives on the USO.  

The first came in 1968, when he was serving a yearlong tour in Vietnam as an infantry soldier. The second came when he took over as the organization’s president in 1987, taking it from a bleak financial situation to solvency. Now, as the civilian in charge of America's military – the first formerly enlisted service member to serve in that post – he gets to see how the organization serves troops under his charge.  

In all three positions, one thing has always stood out to Hagel: the USO’s volunteers.  

"I suppose what always sticks with me – not unlike the men and women I serve with today – is the selflessness of the volunteers who serve with the USO everywhere," Hagel said in an interview with On Patrol, the magazine of the USO. "The astounding commitment of these volunteers [is] inspirational. It’s just beautiful to watch."  

The USO has nearly 30,000 volunteers who contributed almost 1.5 million hours last year at the organization's 160-plus locations around the globe. They do everything from stocking the snack bar and making coffee to helping troops in transit and providing a listening ear during a tough time. It’s the interactions – not the numbers – that have grown the organization’s reputation.    

"The USO is as critical today as it’s ever been," Hagel said during last month's interview. "[The USO is] essentially an adjunct to the military institutions to do things for these young men and women and their families that the military can’t do and probably should not do."

Department of Defense photo  

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