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Proud to Serve, USO Hawaii Lends Hand With Medal of Honor Convention

Friday, October 26, 2012

By Christian Pelusi 

When it comes to honoring the most distinguished veterans of our military, it seems fitting that they be feted in one of the most beautiful states our nation has to offer.

USO Hawaii supported the volunteer aspect of the 2012 Medal of Honor Convention, held in Honolulu Oct. 1-6 which celebrated 50 of the 81 living recipients of the military’s highest honor. USO Hawaii recruited more than 250 volunteers worldwide through the convention’s website outreach and handled months of screening and vetting to pare the list to 125 volunteers.

At the convention, the volunteers worked from  6:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. each day to provide a wide array of services including: lei greetings as guests arrived; baggage handling assistance; hotel check-in;  morning wake-up calls; one-on-one escort assistance for mobility challenged guests; information desk services; hospitality room support; transportation needs for medical assistance; administrative duties and support during the busy events schedule. The convention featured a Blue Angels air show; a memorial service at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific; Pearl Harbor and USS Arizona boat tours; a Lt. Dan Band concert and block party and a Patriot Award Dinner at the USS Missouri historic site.

“These [volunteers] were extraordinary people, moved to great emotion by the service and sufferings of Medal of Honor recipients, who wanted to show their love and care on behalf of a grateful nation,” said USO Hawaii and Guam Area Director Leigh Leilani Graham. She also mentioned that several from the mainland paid for their own transportation and lodging to be a part of the event. “We are now honored to have many of these dedicated volunteers as part of our regular USO Hawaii cadre.”

Graham cited as an example, Holli Jo Corley, who is the spouse of a Navy chief, and is now working in their area offices eight hours a day, providing the same administrative support that she conducted as a part of the convention.

With the USO’s “Grant a Wish to Our Heroes” Veterans Day campaign in mind, Graham shared her thoughts on how USO Centers around the world strive to support all American military personnel.

“Retired military in Hawaii is a very important part of the population we serve,” Graham said. “While USO’s primary mission should always be caring for our active duty service members and their families, it is very important for us to continue rendering service to those who gave their entire lives -- retirees, ID card carrying injured warriors, medically retired -- to the service of our nation. Military life is a difficult undertaking and the sufferings can remain for a lifetime. For those who gave their life in service, I am thankful that USO can remain of service to them.”

On a personal level, the event had many moments that made Graham swell with pride and emotion.

“To be in their company … is, in itself, a lifetime memory,” Graham said. “There are three moments that stand out most to me as I reflect on the convention – the first was meeting two of the youngest recipients from the recent war – Sal Guinta and Leroy Petrie. Both lost comrades on the day of their heroic actions, and Mr. Petrie lost his right arm. Standing with them at sundown at the USS Arizona Memorial to pay tribute to fallen comrades, watching Mr. Guinta with his newborn baby girl, Lilly, and Mr. Petrie saluting with this prosthetic arm, was a moment that made me very humbled and proud to work for USO, a place dedicated to lifting the spirits of our heroes.”

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Photo captions: Members of the Blue Angels greet Medal of Honor recipients on the tarmac; Medal of Honor recipients attend the memorial service at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. Photos courtesy of To see more images, click here. 

Donate today to support our troops this Veterans Day during the USO’s "Grant a Wish for Our Heroes" campaign. 

Federal employees can help the USO fulfill its mission to support troops and their families though the 2012 Combined Federal Campaign. Please designate #11381. 


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