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“We deployed in March. A couple of days before we deployed, we were waiting at the terminal for the bus to get there to take us to Eielson Air Force Base (in Alaska) so we could fly out here to Iraq. When we got there [the USO] was all set up. It had tables full of snacks, full of card games. It had little toiletry care packages because they didn’t know how long we were going to stay. They had toothbrushes and toothpaste. It actually had a USO printed on the bag. It was really nice. … When we got here, the USO, it used to be in a tent. Then they moved it over here to this building. There was hardly anything in there. … So we came in, we volunteers, to help out. We painted the outside blue. We painted the inside of the game room green. We helped set up the tables, the reading room, the video game room, everything. There used to be couches in the movie room. Now there are really comfortable chairs. More games. A refrigerator. Ice cold water. You used to sign in on a sheet. Now [we sign in] on tablets. The programs that they have here keeps the morale up for all the soldiers. They have bingo nights. Corn hole nights. They have fun runs. Karaoke nights. It keeps us going.”

- Jayvontae, Army | Erbil, Iraq

Editor’s note: To help foster connection and understanding between civilians and service members, we created this series, “Front & Center,” and traveled to USO locations around the world to speak to troops about life in the military and the everyday things they love. Here’s what they had to say.