By Sarah Kemp

It is hard enough to miss one holiday with your family, but it is especially challenging for single service members stationed overseas, who may miss one, two, or even three holiday seasons in a row. Trying to recreate family traditions in a small barracks room, an ocean away, can be difficult.

“It’s really rough being away from family during the holidays,” Marine Corps Cpl. Miguel Herrera said. “I see pictures of my family all together, and it’s tough on them and on me to not be there.”

Herrera is spending his second holiday season stationed in Stuttgart, Germany. His holidays last year were made a little brighter by USO Stuttgart’s Single and Unaccompanied Service Members’ Holiday Party.

“Everybody loves free food and free stuff, what’s not to love?” Herrera said. But more importantly, Herrera explained that the USO makes it easy for everyone who is in the same boat to have a space to come together to celebrate.

Photo credit Sarah Kemp

Marine Corps Cpl. Miguel Herrera, who is currently stationed in Germany, made his holidays alone and away from home a little brighter by attending USO Stuttgart’s Single and Unaccompanied Service Members’ Holiday Party.

Navy Reserve Petty Officer 2nd Class and USO volunteer Crystal Bedney decided to volunteer for the USO’s Thanksgiving and Christmas meals in 2018 and 2019.

“It was super fun, but I don’t ever want to see another flake of instant mashed potatoes again!” Bedney exclaimed.

Navy Reserve Petty Officer 2nd Class and USO volunteer Crystal Bedney and her sister pitch in to serve dinner during USO holiday meals. | Photo credit Sarah Kemp

Her mixing skills were put to good use at USO Hawaii and USO Stuttgart. Bedney explained that she volunteered because “I didn’t want to sit at home by myself, and it is important that other people don’t sit at home by themselves.”

For this Christmas 2019, Bedney’s sister was visiting from the U.S., yet Bedney still did not miss an opportunity to volunteer with the USO – she simply brought her sister along to help prepare the holiday meal for 250 people.

“I feel like the USO was the family I didn’t have close by,” Bedney said.

Staff Sgt. Baster Bossman, a single Army soldier, made a new friend when he volunteered for the USO Thanksgiving meal in 2018. He explained that he worked for hours next to another volunteer who was very nice on Thanksgiving, and then again during the Black Friday Fill Up program the next day.

Nearly a week later while at work, a three-star general walked in, and Bossman’s jaw dropped to the ground when he realized it was that same USO volunteer he had worked alongside just the week before.

“I had no idea. I was shocked. I love that all ranks and backgrounds volunteer to help our community,” Bossman said. “This year he asked me if I was going to volunteer again, and when I said yes, he said ‘Okay I will too!’”

Being physically separated from family during the holidays can be difficult, especially for our men and women in uniform who put their lives on the line for our freedoms. The USO helps single service members still celebrate those traditions from home and create new holiday memories, no matter where in the world their service takes them.