By Joseph Andrew Lee

In its 75th year, the USO appealed to the American people to help connect service members to their families, homes and country through the USO’s Campaign to Connect, an effort to collect 1 million messages of support for our men and women in uniform.

Thanks to an overwhelming public response, the USO reached the million message mark two months ahead of schedule, so we decided to keep going.

“America really delivered on a level we did not expect,” said Paul Allvin, the USO’s senior vice president of brand advancement. “We wanted to set a new goal, so we’re headed toward collecting 1.4 million messages to represent one message for every person currently serving on active duty. We want to reach that goal by the end of 2016.”

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To reach 1 million messages, the USO asked 30,000 of our volunteers around the world to reach out to their family and friends. We enlisted help from White House visitors, corporate partners and NASCAR and football fans to send messages of support. They, along with many others, came through for our service members and military families. Now we’re asking you to show your support.

“We want this to be part of the USO experience,” Allvin said. “When you walk into a USO center, among all the other things you have available to you, you will also be surrounded by messages of support from Americans back home.”

Kristen Baxter, the USO’s vice president of field operations, said the campaign is an opportunity for Americans to get engaged and to let our men and women in uniform know our country is grateful for what they do. With our unique global presence, the USO is the best way for civilians to connect with service members and military families.

“No other organization has the scale needed to collect a million messages of support for our service members stationed around the world,” Baxter said.

Messages collected from Americans are streamed onto digital displays at many of the USO’s more than 180 locations. For American service members who are separated from the people and places they love, all they have to do is visit their USO center on base to see a groundswell of support from back home. 

“Since we were founded in 1941, our job has been to connect service members back to the things that give meaning to their service,” Allvin said. “It’s what President [Franklin] Roosevelt had in mind when he said, ‘not by machines alone, will we win this war.’”

Roosevelt understood that any American could support the war effort by finding a way to connect service members back to family, home and country.

“For the USO, that has taken the form of entertainment, of care packages and of recordings sent back home to loved ones – and now messages from the American people,” he said.

Allvin said he hopes service members who see the messages of support in USO centers around the world feel a sense of connection to the men and women they protect.

“I hope we start a dialogue between civilian America and those men and women who are protecting them in uniform—to bring them closer together over time.”

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.