USO Rome Reunites Marines, Families With 'Meet the Parents' Program
Tuesday, January 31, 2012
By Christian Pelusi
Roughly two years ago, USO Europe Regional Vice President Walter Murren challenged the USO Rome staff to look for ways to increase its interaction with the 10 Marines assigned to guard the U.S. Embassy in Rome and their families.
Despite limited field budgets, Murren pushed the goal further, asking USO Rome to devise new programs to further bind the USO and Marines with the Roman community.
USO Rome answered the call with the "Meet the Parents" program. Now in its second year, USO Rome awards two trip packages annually to two Marines through generous in-kind donations from local businesses. USO Rome flies the Marines' families to Rome for a one-week reunion, complete with lodging, tours and other services. The trips take place in February during President's Day week.
"When solicited by USO Rome, none of the local donors could say 'no' to this noble initiative," USO Naples and Rome Area Director Sabrina Pullido said. "Hotels, transportation companies, restaurants and tours companies all came together to make this a reality. ... The community at the Embassy was enthusiastic to learn of this initiative, as they are very supportive of their Marine unit."
Among the local partners that support "Meet the Parents" are B&B il Passetto, B&B Holiday House, Tour Company: Through Eternity and Da Vito e Dina restaurant.
Marines protect U.S. Embassies around the world on three- to four-year obligations, working 10- to 12-hour days, being combat-ready at all times.
"We're the first ones people see when they enter the U.S. Embassy for the first or the last time," said Sgt. Donald R. Fowler, one of this year's recipients of the award.
Their long commitments make trips home difficult, making this initiative very cherished among the Marines.
"With the 'Meet the Parents' program, that was just icing on the cake for us, because like many others, our parents have no idea what we do as Embassy guards and have never come to Italy," Sgt. Fowler said. "So it's extremely special to have something like this because we all live and work overseas and because of our jobs, family time is sometimes second of the list."
Fortunately for the Marines, they are always first on USO Rome's list.
"The USO means a lot to the Marines because it's hard to talk to people that have never experienced or know what your job represents," Sgt. Fowler said. "The USO personnel do so much that other people take for granted, on their own time. So for us, the Marines in Italy, we love to have them around."
For USO Europe Regional Vice President Murren, the initiative is a point of pride he shares with USO Rome.
"They've done a wonderful job in Rome and execution of the 'Meet the Parents' program is but one of the great examples of the talent we have in Patriana Zancani, the Center Operations Manager, and her wonderful staff in Rome," Murren said.
For more information, visit USO Rome's Facebook page or its website.
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(Photo caption: MSG Sgt. Donald Fowler, left, and Cpl. Andres Ramirez Garcia posing with their Meet the Parents certificate awards. Credit: Patriana Zancani, USO Rome)
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