By Sarah Kemp
Frieda Campbell knows how important it is to support the military community.
Just a few years younger than the USO itself, Campbell was born in Hundheim, Germany, during World War II into a large family. She admits that, after the war, it was difficult for her parents and 19 siblings to get by and she recalls using ration stamps for groceries when they were available, which was not often.
In particular, Campbell remembers the disappointment when, during a late 1940s winter, her mother told her family there would be no Christmas. However, one night, the town crier – a man who would walk down the streets ringing a bell and declaring town news – invited all large families to the town hall the next day for a surprise.
Much to their shock, Campbell’s family, along with others in her town, had received Christmas care packages from America.
“I can still see the whole thing in front of me. There was a can of Crisco, a big bag of flour and sugar to bake cookies and a Hershey can of chocolate,” Campbell said.
It was a moment that would make a lasting impact on Campbell and would inspire her to give back to the U.S. military community throughout her life.
Answering the Call to Welcome U.S. Military Families to Germany
As Campbell grew up, she observed the ebb and flow of U.S. service members in her home country.
While working as a young waitress in a German restaurant, Campbell watched as American G.I.s were refused service. Eventually, she fell in love with one of those American G.I.s, married him and became a member of the American military community.
Transitioning from a German civilian to an American military spouse had its challenges for Campbell. She felt ostracized by stereotypes that all Germans were unkind. But that did not stop her. She wanted to prove that Germans were good people and enjoyed helping American spouses assimilate into the German communities where they were stationed.
“I was very proud of being able to help and taking them out to make them feel comfortable,” Campbell said.
Campbell explained she was thankful to now see Americans riding their bikes from base to base and traveling through her home country. “I feel comfortable in the American military community in Germany. I belong here.”
Inspired to Give Back to Those Who Helped After the War
In 2003, she took her involvement in the U.S. military community one step further and decided to start volunteering at USO Stuttgart.
After only volunteering for a year, Campbell offered to lead USO Stuttgart’s care package program, remembering the joy she felt receiving a care package as a young girl.
Campbell saw a disorganized process and offered to streamline it. She created an inventory log and a system for assembling and shipping the care packages to American military service members deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.
“That’s why care packages are so precious,” she said.“I tried to make every package so nice, so the soldiers would feel the same way I did.”
To this day, Campbell is as dedicated as ever, and can be spotted regularly volunteering at USO Stuttgart.
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