Answering Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Call to Service

By Sarah Kemp

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’"

We celebrate his legacy of helping others each year on January 17, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service – the same day we, as a nation, honor King and his contributions to America.

At the USO we are proud to answer his call to service. Across the world, more than 30,000 USO volunteers help our nation’s service members connect to family, home and country.

Our volunteers not only range in age, they also live everywhere from Anchorage to Boston and Dubai to Okinawa. Regardless of their military affiliation or location, they all have one thing in common – they love supporting our service members.

“This is the best volunteer job in the whole world!” USO Bay Area Volunteer LeAnn Thornton said as she shared a story about helping a soldier plan a surprise proposal for his girlfriend at his homecoming in San Francisco International Airport.

Volunteer LeAnn Thorton (far left) poses with Sgt. Rippey and his new fiancé after his surprise proposal. | Photo credit USO Volunteer LeAnn Thornton

An astounding 97% of our volunteers agree with Thornton, recommending the USO as a great place to volunteer.

To learn more about volunteering with the USO, go to

While many of our volunteers are tasked with greeting service members and making them feel at home at our centers, other opportunities may be available at your local center. You may find yourself helping plan events, organizing volunteer schedules, making deliveries or conducting mock interviews for service members transitioning out of service and into the civilian workforce.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service is a federal holiday, but USO sees the day more as a “day on, not a day off” and encourages military supporters to use the time to volunteer in support of their local military community.

On Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, and every day, our USO volunteers are making time to serve in their communities showing our service members they care. Please consider meeting King’s challenge by volunteering for the USO.

You can send a message of support and thanks directly to service members via the USO’s Campaign to Connect. Your messages will appear on screens at USO locations around the world.

-This story first appeared on in 2016. It has been edited in 2022.

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Every day, America’s service members selflessly put their lives on the line to keep us safe and free. Please take a moment to let our troops know how much we appreciate their service and sacrifice.


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