By Chad Stewart
FORT RILEY, Kansas–Faythe DeMaroney-Scaletta always seems to be there.
On most weekdays – before USO Fort Riley opens and until after it closes in the evening – she is at the center making sure the building and its visitors are taken care of.
If she’s not welcoming people at the front desk, she’s organizing the storage room, talking to troops or scrubbing tables in the dining area. She’s a fixture here, donating nearly 11,000 hours of her time to the organization since 2011.
“While some of us are struggling just to wake up and get our coffee in the morning, Faythe has likely been at the USO for several hours,” USO Fort Riley Program Manager Crystal Tinkey wrote in an email.
The USO has nearly 30,000 volunteers at our centers around the world, but you’d be hard-pressed to find one like DeMaroney-Scaletta, who puts in thousands of hours a year despite battling multiple sclerosis that confines her to a wheelchair most of her day.
“[Faythe] can be overwhelmed and exhausted and will still push on with a smile on her face to ensure she is helping to fulfill the USO’s mission,” Tinkey said.
A few months after turning 20, DeMaroney-Scaletta was diagnosed with MS, a chronic disease of the central nervous system that disrupts the flow of information within the brain and between the brain and body, according to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Symptoms vary widely among patients, but pain, fatigue, vertigo, weakness and numbness in the limbs are a few of the disease’s most common signs.
DeMaroney-Scaletta, now 35, could have felt like a victim, but in talking to her, it’s clear she doesn’t see herself as a casualty of any disease.
“I [volunteer] instead of sitting at home, moping about my disability,“ she said. "I try to give back. It actually opens a lot of people’s eyes who don’t know about MS.”
When USO Fort Riley visitors ask why she uses a wheelchair, DeMaroney-Scaletta isn’t afraid to share her story. Many assume she’s a wounded service member, but when she tells them about MS and shows them what someone living with a chronic disease is capable of, they’re usually impressed.
Children, often shushed by their parents for fear of being rude, ask questions, too. She tells youngsters she can’t feel her legs below her knees and she uses her chair “to get places and help people when they come in to the USO.” She understands their curiosity because she’s a mom.
“I’ve had two beautiful children, and they’re healthy and marvelous and I couldn’t ask for anything better,” she said, adding that her kids live with her ex-husband in Indiana and are well cared for.
She said she was in a “bad place” before she started volunteering years ago and recalled an incident while she was having lunch with a former boyfriend at the post exchange. In the men’s room, her friend overheard two young soldiers making disparaging remarks about her and other disabled people.
“The girl in the wheelchair should never be allowed on post or be able to eat in the same facilities as others,” was the quote that was reported back to her. The friend was quick to defend her with some “choice words” as she put it, but that didn’t eliminate the sting of those insults.
“That kind of gets you down,” said DeMaroney-Scaletta, who started using a wheelchair in October 2007. “When you go out and people stare and treat you differently, it’s hard.”
Joining forces with the USO helped her put some of those feelings behind her.
“When I started [volunteering] and just getting more open and then telling people about things, it helped me get out of that bad spot, and I’ve helped others.”
“I think the toughness Faythe shows in battling MS more than inspires and motivates those around her,” Tinkey said. “It simply blows them away.”
Officially, DeMaroney-Scaletta has spent more than 10,700 hours volunteering at the USO. Unofficially, the number is much higher because she doesn’t always keep track of the time she’s clocked. The self-described Army brat is not interested in statistics or accolades – she’s more concerned about the service members and military families she supports every day.
“I’m not in it for the awards or recognition – which I don’t like,” she said. “I do the time just to help. It’s all I do. It’s all I know.”
If she had it her way, she’d be an anonymous USO volunteer, giving back to the military community she was born into.
“Because of her own experiences as both a military child and now a spouse, she has experienced firsthand what the families of our service members are going through.” Tinkey wrote. “[Her background] allows her to connect with those we serve on a deep and personal level.”
Her lifelong connection to the military continued when she met a soldier named Christopher Scaletta. He wandered into USO Fort Riley in 2011 and two years later, they were married. She said her husband, who was recently promoted to sergeant, is also a USO volunteer. It’s a good way to support his fellow soldiers and spend time with his wife at the same time.
“He gets frustrated that I spend so much time here – he wishes I would take some time off – but he knows how dedicated I am,” she said.
DeMaroney-Scaletta’s not afraid to test her physical limits and that sometimes gets her in trouble with friends, family and doctors.
“I need help reaching things up high,” she said. “They won’t let me climb ladders or use my chair as one.”
While MS has taken away some of her physical strength, her desire to support our men and women in uniform has never been more resolute.
“I can’t do as much as I used to, but I always find someone to help me. I don’t ask anybody to do anything I can’t do.”
Tinkey said the daily routines that come easy for most of us are challenging for Faythe, but she always finds the strength to get up and go to the USO.
“If Faythe can do it, and do it with what appears to be ease when it is anything but easy, others see that and realize, ‘Wow, I can do that, too.’”
Tinkey wrote that DeMaroney-Scaletta pushes herself far beyond her limits because she is so passionate about giving back to our service members and military families.
“This woman is nothing short of incredible.”
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.
Stories in this Series
Oct 21, 2019
Healing After the 1983 Beirut Bombings at USO North Carolina-Jacksonville Center’s ‘Beirut Room’
The 1983 Beirut Bombing—when a suicide bomber attacked a Marine barracks in Lebanon, killing U.S. and French service members, as well as civilians—had a deep impact on the Jacksonville, North Carolina community. So, the USO created a special room to honor the victims, survivors and family members affected by the bombing.
Dec 14, 2016
Here’s How the USO and RP/6 Created a ‘Movement’ in San Antonio
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Oct 9, 2016
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Aug 15, 2016
Sesame Street/USO Experience for Military Families Looks at Transition
Military families stationed here in Minot, North Dakota -- 50 miles south of the Canadian border -- don’t get many VIP visitors. So when the Sesame Street/USO Experience for Military Families kicked off its 2016 tour at the base, it was a big deal.
Jul 29, 2016
Military Bride-to-Be Says Yes to the Dress Thanks to the USO at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base
As soon as Melissa Wrisley put on the satin white gown, she knew it was “the dress.” Just a few months earlier, when she was first engaged to her now-husband, Marine Pfc. Brandon Wrisley, Melissa was wondering if she would even be able to find a dress – let alone a designer dress – that would fit their tight wedding budget.
Jul 20, 2016
Storytime Brings Families Together at Fort Drum USO
At the home of the 10th Mountain Division in upstate New York, winters can be long and lonesome. That's why volunteers there began to organize Storytime at the local USO, where military kids can socialize and do arts and crafts with their family.
Jul 14, 2016
It’s Never Too Early for Chili Cheese Dogs at the USO
German troops headed to nearby Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, for training had heard about the American delicacy all the way back in Germany. They stopped at the USO center in St. Louis – which is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year – at 7 a.m. to find out what the buzz was about.
Jun 9, 2016
Service Members Get Their Game On at USO Center on Wright-Patterson AFB
Some of our best ideas come from the service members we support. Here's what happened when two airmen at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base who love video games came to the USO of Central and Southern Ohio with a big idea.
May 6, 2016
‘Made All the Difference’: USO Helps Coast Guard Family During 12-Hour Flight Delay
Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Trevor Hughes and his young family were headed to Disney World when they were suddenly faced with a 12-hour flight delay. Unable to go home without his children’s car seats, Hughes headed to the USO, where his family spent the whole day napping, watching movies and eating snacks.
Apr 22, 2016
USO, RP/6 Help an Army Veteran Land a Job Right Next Door
Michael Leebarze, who had ambitions to launch a career in the criminal justice/homeland security field, spoke with RP/6 staff members about his resume and transition plan. Several hours of career counseling later, Leebarze, now an Army veteran, left the center with a job interview for a position at the company right next door to the USO center.
Apr 8, 2016
Air Force Dad Became a USO Volunteer After Son's Call
How did you find out about the USO? For Tom Flagg, it was a phone call from his Air Force captain son during a layover in Denver. Years later, Flagg - a Broadway actor - and his wife both volunteer at the USO of Metropolitan New York.
Mar 4, 2016
A Tasty Competition: USO Fort Campbell's Cupcake Wars Bring Military Families Together
Nothing brings people together like food and healthy competition. That’s the idea behind Fort Campbell USO’s Cupcake Wars, a fierce (and tasty) cupcake competition that takes place every at the center every summer.
Feb 28, 2016
From Biker Bars to Coffee Shops, USO El Paso Volunteer Opens Doors of Support for Service Members
Mallo is a USO center director’s dream come true. She’s marched into multiple businesses to ask if they’d like to support America’s service members and walked out with gift cards, mountains of candy and pallets of batteries.
Feb 27, 2016
Hattiesburg USO was a Sanctuary During World War II
The words of World War II-era USO volunteer Vermell Jackson echo the sentiments of the photos and encased USO artifacts at the African American Military History Museum. The building that now houses the museum was once home to a unique USO wartime center.