[caption id=“attachment_12925” align=“aligncenter” width=“600”]Army 2nd Lt. Philip De Rosa, left,  Army Spc. Caroline De Rosa and Army Capt. Alex De Rosa pose at a family event. Photo courtesy of Amy De Rosa Army 2nd Lt. Philip De Rosa, left, Army Spc. Caroline De Rosa and Army Capt. Alex De Rosa pose at a family event. Photo courtesy of Amy De Rosa[/caption]

An email made the difference for Amy De Rosa.

“When my oldest [son, Alex,] was applying to college, one of his music teachers left his position at the school to go be a member of the military band at West Point,” De Rosa said. “That opened up a door. [Alex] decided to apply to West Point. He got it. He went, and then it went from there.”

It was De Rosa’s first experience with military life.

Alex was stationed in Germany after he graduated, and deployed to Afghanistan from there. Already separated by an ocean, his family faced the awkward task of saying their deployment goodbyes from afar.

“We talked about if should we go over [to Germany] to say goodbye, but our son told us that we didn’t need to do that,” she said. “He described a little bit of the process of how he would get to Afghanistan. That helped a little bit.

“In his words, he was fine and ready to go, so that set the tone for us.”

But moms worry. While De Rosa was a little nervous for her oldest son – now an Army captain – she knew he was well-trained and ready for his deployment. Still, she didn’t know when she’d hear from him next.

It was less than a day.

“When we got the email [from Alex], it was just great to know he made it and could be in touch with us,” she said, noting Alex sent an email to his grandmother, too. “We didn’t know much, but we knew we got an email from him at the USO. It was a really good feeling, and that was our first introduction to the USO.”

The emails and phone calls kept coming, too. Throughout Alex’s deployment, the family was able to stay close even though they were half a world apart.

And there were more USO experiences, too. De Rosa’s youngest son, Philip, went to West Point, too, and had to travel from New York to Seoul at one point for training. As the family drove him to the airport, he mentioned he’d have a nine-hour layover in California before heading overseas.

“I thought ‘What do you do for nine hours?” De Rosa said. “He later told us ‘Oh, I went to the USO, and I slept there.’ I thought ‘Oh man, this is so great. The USO came through again!’ He got a regular night’s sleep for his flight the next day, and it was another case of the small things being the most reassuring.

“It was a relief, and even though he was 3,000 miles away, he had somewhere to go that was safe and clean. … The USO provides this big safety net. That was a nice feeling.”

De Rosa says all three of her children – her daughter Caroline is a specialist in the Army – have benefitted from the USO, whether they grabbed a meal before a flight or used a center as a safe place to store luggage while traveling.

“We share our story because before we had kids in the military, we really didn’t know what the USO offered,” she said. “It’s much more personal, and they come pretty close to home.”