By Danielle DeSimone
For soldiers stationed at the Caserma Del Din Army installation in Vicenza, Italy, life outside of their daily duties can be quiet and isolating.
Del Din, which is located in the northern part of Italy, is a small base with limited amenities. Many troops – particularly young, single or unaccompanied soldiers without a car – have nowhere to go beyond their barracks to socialize during their downtime, which can lead to boredom and loneliness.
So, to help build community and provide service members somewhere to go on-base in their free time, Army leadership got creative and requested USO2GO expeditionary kits –which are funded by generous supporters like you– to create their own USO Day Room on Del Din.
Life in Del Din, Italy
Opened in 2013, Del Din is about a 30-minute drive away from the nearby main post of Caserma Ederle, where the Exchange, Commissary, the USO Vicenza center and other base amenities are located.
Even though Caserma Ederle is the geographically larger base that hosts all the amenities, Del Din actually houses more active-duty soldiers and their families. Over 1,000 service members and military families live on the small base, with single or unaccompanied soldiers making up a majority of the population.
“A lot of times, the soldiers who are over here definitely feel more isolated. They’re not next to the main post…so for them, they get off work and they’re stuck here, in their barracks, with nothing to do,” said Samantha Storch, center manager of USO Vicenza.
There is also the additional challenge of being stationed in a foreign country.
Although an Italy duty station may sound ideal, it comes with its own challenges. There are language and cultural barriers when venturing off-base, as well as the loneliness of being so far away from everyone and everything familiar. Because of this, many service members located on Del Din have nowhere to go to socialize in their off-hours, which can be challenging for morale.
“Those barrack rooms – they’re really small,” said Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Wiseman, a USO volunteer.
“And when you’re just sitting in there, that space gets smaller and smaller over time.”
But thanks to the USO2GO kits, soldiers like Wiseman now have a somewhere else to spend their free time other than the barracks.
USO2GO Kits and a New USO Day Room
USO2GO kits are typically sent to remote locations where a traditional USO center might not be logistically possible, like forward-deployed areas in the Middle East, areas of natural disaster or locations like Del Din.
Designed to bring a touch of home to anywhere in the word, these kits can completely transform a remote outpost into a place to gather and relax. USO2GO’s are fully customizable and can include anything from bean bag chairs, instruments and toiletries to board games, electronics and video game systems.
These kits are often some of the only entertainment our service members have, especially among forward-deployed units. Because of supporters like you, USO2GO kits can make all the difference by offering a break from service members’ daily duties and allowing them to come together and spend time together as a unit.
Without enough funding, man-power or space to build and staff a brand new, full-scale USO center on Del Din, using USO2GO kits to create a USO Day Room was the perfect solution.
After submitting a simple request, service members on Del Din received the kits and used them to fill up a previously unused and empty lounge area on base. They even took it upon themselves to paint the walls of the room.
Now, they have a new space to call their own.
A New Place to Relax
This makeshift USO Day Room has made all the difference in the lives of service members at Del Din.
“For soldiers, it’s nice to be able to come out [of your barracks] and meet other soldiers that maybe aren’t in the same working unit as you, and then also have those USO volunteers and staff and being able to interact with them,” said Storch.
“We let them know that they’re important and what they do every day is important, and that we’re here to support them through their mission.”
Storch also explained that having this USO Day Room has even allowed USO Vicenza to start offering more programs throughout the Del Din community, including Taco Tuesdays, Texas Hold ‘Em Tournaments and Spouse Socials.
Since the creation of the USO Day Room, more and more service members have been participating in USO programs throughout Del Din and have even offered to serve as USO volunteers.
“The USO is kind of a nice place you can go to talk with your friends…there’s all sorts of stuff there to keep [service members] occupied and build that camaraderie,” said Wiseman.
“And that’s one of the USO core values – strengthening relationships – and so I think that’s one of the most important things of this day room: it helps brings soldiers together.”
Editor’s Note: Danielle DeSimone is the USO’s marketing content specialist. She grew up in a U.S. Navy household as a military child, lived overseas in Italy through two duty stations and went through multiple deployments.
- Senior Content Marketing Manager Sandi Gohn and former Director of Content Strategy Chad Stewart contributed to this report.
More from the USO
Apr 13, 2018
Deployed Soldiers In Iraq Surprised With USO Care Packages, Games and Treats
When a soldier in Erbil, Iraq, stopped by the USO and asked if the USO could provide his Army unit with much-needed toiletries in less than 48 hours, the USO team on the ground sprang into action and delivered for troops outside the wire.