It started with a tongue-in-cheek challenge.

USO Northwest Executive Director Don Leingang was thanking USO volunteer and retired soldier Wayne Jackson for his tireless volunteer efforts in 2014 when Jackson asked him a question.

“What would you do if I put in 2,000 hours next year?”

“At first I kind of chuckled to myself,” Leingang said. “I really didn’t expect him to actually put in that many hours. So I said if you put 2,000 hours in I’ll fly you anywhere you want to go.”

And then it happened. Jackson spent more than 2,000 hours connecting with service members and their families in one year for USO Northwest, driving the USO Mobile around the region and helping out at the Shali Center on Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

“I was blown away, but happy to stand by my promise,” Leingang said.

Jackson’s choice? To take his granddaughter Harlie to visit the USO corporate headquarters in Arlington, Virginia.

“Now that’s someone truly dedicated to the mission,” Leingang said.

Jackson chose the Washington, D.C., area not only to see the USO Headquarters, but also so his granddaughter could see the historical sights and museums.

Leingang pulled money out of his own pocket and worked with other veterans to donate airline miles to procure a ticket for Harlie.

Before they knew it Jackson and his granddaughter were standing in the lobby of the USO offices in Arlington, Virginia, where he had a personal meeting with USO President and CEO Dr. J.D. Crouch II.

Photo credit Joseph Andrew Lee

USO Volunteer Wayne Jackson and granddaughter Harlie with USO President and CEO Dr. J.D. Crouch II.

“People like Wayne really are the lifeblood of our organization,” Crouch said. “It was such a pleasure to meet him and his granddaughter. We’re very proud of him and we’re very proud of what he represents as a USO volunteer.”

“I don’t [volunteer] for the thank you’s or the kudos, and I surely don’t do it for trips like this,” Jackson said, laughing. “It’s just knowing that I’m doing something for someone to make their day easier like someone did for me when I was in. That’s what it’s about.”

“And that’s the magic of the USO,” Leingang said. “We understand people, and you could say this was a bet that went well. By taking care of Wayne now, the effect that it’s going to have on his granddaughter is priceless. He’s raising someone who understands what it means to give back, and that’s something she can be proud of in him, and it’s a part of him that will no doubt live on through her.”

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.