USO Volunteers of the Year are nominated by their center staff, and chosen by their regional leadership to be a USO Volunteer of the Quarter. From there, a panel votes to select the USO Volunteer of the Year, Stateside and USO Volunteer of the Year, Overseas.
Two individuals are selected each year out of our 30,000 volunteers around the world. They represent the best of our USO core values that our our volunteers exhibit every day.
Both are invited to attend our annual USO Gala in Washington in October, where they will be honored.
Ron Meier | Bob Hope USO-Palm Springs | Stateside
Ron Meier never stops working for the USO.
Over the past four years, Meier has donated more than 5,200 hours of his time to the USO. He is a carpenter, painter, cargo handler, sandwich maker, volunteer timekeeper, volunteer trainer and innovator.
Ten days before Super Bowl 50, the Marines at Camp Wilson on Twentynine Palms in California asked for assistance in bringing the Super Bowl to their location, as they were stuck on a training base that had no internet, cellphone or television service. Meier researched and arranged for a portable satellite dish to be taken to Camp Wilson, along with plenty of snacks. Nearly 2,000 Marines enjoyed the game thanks to Meier’s quick thinking.
Meier has also implemented Bob Hope USO-Palm Springs’ Operation: Sandwich Drop. He organizes volunteers to make 120 brown-bag lunches and hand delivers them planeside to the students and staff arriving for the Marine Infantry Officer Course.
“Additionally, Ron played an important part in turbocharging our virtually nonexistent outreach programs,” said Teresa Cherry, the center manager at Bob Hope USO-Palm Springs. “In one year, Bob Hope USO-Palm Springs went from serving 1,047 troops and their families on base to 14,888 through outreach programs.”
Meier is known throughout the military community. When a unit requests USO assistance for a program, the question always asked is whether Meier will be attending. To their delight, the answer is always a resounding, “Of course!”
Ralph Nelsen | USO Osan, South Korea | Overseas
If a service member has a permanent change of station (PCS) move to Osan Air Base in South Korea, they’re going to meet Ralph Nelsen.
Nelsen is one of the longest-serving volunteers for USO Osan’s Patriot Express Program. Nelsen mans an information table near baggage claim in the Osan Airport Passenger Terminal twice a week. There, he greets service members and their families with a warm welcome and a wealth of knowledge about the area.
“He is legendary among airmen PCSing to [South] Korea through Osan AMC Terminal,” USO Osan Manager David Yoo said.
Nelsen, a former airman, was stationed at Osan in the 1970s. He not only knows the base like the back of his hand, but also knows the stresses of moving far from home. Nelsen is a reassuring presence and a connection to home for first-time PCSers.
When he’s not welcoming service members new to the area, Nelsen helps with events and managing the USO center. In 2010, during a staff changeover, Nelsen stepped in to open and close the center for five months, ensuring that service never faltered.
Before his role at USO Osan, Nelsen was a volunteer at Camp Humphreys. He was integral in the creation of their most popular program, Humphrey’s Lunch Box. That program serves up free food to service members and families on base.
If you ever find yourself at Osan, look for Nelsen. He’ll be the one smiling in baggage claim.
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
Jul 20, 2016
'We’re Here for the Soldiers’: How One Volunteer Couple Answered the Call to Serve at USO Fort Hood
Anne Cosper always wanted to volunteer at the USO. So when her daughter, who currently serves in the U.S. Army, was reassigned to Fort Hood – only an hour drive from her Georgetown, Texas, home – she and her veteran husband, Rick, decided it was the perfect opportunity to get involved.
Jul 20, 2016
How USO SeaTac’s ‘Banana’ Bob Got His Nickname
Bob Harris first began volunteering at the USO Northwest Seattle-Tacoma International Airport center in 2013. Shortly after he started, he was asked if he’d be interested in picking up donated bananas and bringing them to the airport center once a week. It wasn’t long after his first delivery that Bob realized the donations runs had earned him a new nickname.
Jul 18, 2016
Meet ‘Sauerkraut’ Dean: Creator of the USO SeaTac Special
Dean Quigley knew pretty quickly that something was missing. The 92-year-old started volunteering at USO Northwest’s Seattle-Tacoma International Airport Center in 2003. Once he got acquainted with the food kitchen area, he realized there was an important ingredient absent from the hot dog bar: sauerkraut.
Jun 13, 2016
'I Can’t Quit': Why One Wounded Army Vet is Running a Marathon to Benefit USO Alaska
Growing up in Duluth, Minnesota, Revak dreamed of running Grandma’s Marathon, a race that's finish line was near his front door. But a 2006 injury in Iraq left him wondering if he'd be able to run again at all. On June 18 -- thanks to a a special, custom-made orthotic he received last year -- he'll finally get his chance. And he's doing it to benefit USO Alaska, an organization he shares a unique bond with, dating back to the days after his injury.
Mar 22, 2016
Meet Chewy: USO of North Carolina’s Ambassadog
With roughly 100,000 miles, two cross-country trips and countless charity rides under their belts — including several rides benefiting the USO of North Carolina — Chewy the Ambassadog and his Army veteran owner Butch Ewing have quite the following.