USO FOB Sharana Closes its Doors After Three Years of Service in Afghanistan
Friday, September 27, 2013
By Joseph Andrew Lee
How do you know America’s troops are on their way home from Afghanistan? Because the USO has closed its first center in the country.
The USO at FOB Sharana hosted more than 220,000 visits by American and coalition troops stationed there since troops first built the center in October 2010.
What was once a drab Quonset hut amid a row of military facilities, USO FOB Sharana was transformed by troops into a warm, comfortable place to hang one’s hat, complete with custom-built poker tables, breakfast supplies and Christmas stockings during the holidays.
“The center at Sharana was focused on providing a homey, living room atmosphere,” Sharana center director DJ Stanhope wrote in a recent email. “Most of the food was donated and our ‘extras’ had no comparison in any pancake house I ever saw. We had flavored syrups, nuts, butter, powdered and brown sugar, fruit toppings, granola, you name it.”
One of the “regular pancake flippers,” Army Command Sgt. Maj. Ernest Warner, of 2nd Battalion, 15th Field Artillery Regiment, said USO FOB Sharana was a key morale booster for soldiers stationed there.
“It gave them a taste of home with all the activities the USO provided,” he said at the closing ceremony.
For her service to the troops stationed aboard FOB Sharana, Stanhope received the Patriotic Civilian Service Award from the Army during the Sept. 11 closing ceremony.
“I take great pride in knowing we have made a difference on this little FOB, bringing a hug from home to the troops who serve here,” Stanhope said in remarks at the closing ceremony. “But truthfully, I will remember most the troops who got to see a baby being born, completed a college class, got promoted or achieved a great award or other distinction. I will remember the ones who felt safe to come to me with a problem or just needed a little encouragement knowing I would give it to them. I will remember how I have been cared for when I had a respiratory infection and when I broke my foot. I will remember our amazing pancake waffle breakfasts and the Combat Kitchen Crew who made it happen. And I will never forget the ones who didn’t make it home with us.
“For my part, it has been a wonderful privilege to serve this community, and in many ways this parting is bittersweet because I have come to view this place as home. My heart is at Sharana not because I am so selfless or so special, but because you are and you have welcomed me and made me feel as though I am a part of your family.”
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