By Danielle DeSimone
They swore an oath to protect their nation and now, thousands of U.S. Reserve, Guard and active duty service members are answering the call to serve by helping in the fight against the coronavirus and the disease it causes, COVID-19.
While the country (and, frankly, the world) adjusts to quarantines and drastic changes in daily life, U.S. service members are leaving their families and deploying to hospital ships, field hospitals, makeshift care facilities and other locations across the globe to help local communities contain the spread of the highly-contagious disease.
Now, more than ever, they need our help and the support of people like you. Here are 5 ways your USO donor dollars are at work, supporting the military during the COVID-19 pandemic:
1. You Are Supporting Quarantined Troops
Service members around the world are currently in quarantine for their own safety and for the safety of their units. Operational readiness is especially crucial during a global pandemic, and quarantines help stop the spread of the virus and keep our troops fighting fit.
However, being in quarantine can be a stressful and lengthy process. This is especially true for troops who are stationed overseas or have just returned home from deployment, but then must immediately sit through 14 days of quarantine before they can head home to their loved ones. For those who are diagnosed with the virus, the situation is even more tense.
That’s why – with the help of donors like you – USO teams across the world have been able to provide support to these quarantined service members. While always adhering to CDC guidelines and military command protocol, the USO is delivering food, snacks and beverages to quarantined troops. On some bases, the USO is also providing entertainment in the form of video games, movies and board games.
By doing this, we let our quarantined service members know that even in these uncertain times, they are not forgotten.
2. You Are Supporting Military Spouses
Military spouses already lead challenging lives – with deployments, constant moves, the challenge of sustaining a career and the daily stress of military life. This is even more poignant right now, during the coronavirus pandemic.
With schools and day cares closed, and social distancing becoming the new norm, many military spouses have suddenly become full-time, single parents; because the military, of course, does not “work from home,” their service member must still put on their uniform every day and head to work. For those whose spouses are deployed, this situation can be even more challenging.
The USO is always dedicated to supporting military spouses by providing them with resources to help weather the storm, especially over these coming weeks. Military spouses can take advantage of now-virtual programs that promote networking and connection, such as USO Coffee Connections, where they can discuss hot topics and challenges within the military community, as well as search for employment opportunities.
Military spouses can also continue to rely on the USO for food programming. Cooking classes that used to be hosted in USO centers are now being provided online through livestream videos. Some USO locations, such as USO Camp Walker, have even been able to safely provide hot meals to military families at outdoors locations, always adhering to CDC guidelines and base command instructions.
Additionally, the USO has shifted its programming for military children to virtual offerings, like livestreaming story hours via the Bob Hope Legacy Reading Program. These online activities have helped keep military children entertained, offering military spouses some respite in the middle of a very stressful time.
3. You Are Supporting Medical Personnel
Your donation to the USO means that we can continue to support service members who are either in the medical field, facilitating quarantines or providing other medical support to the American people.
In Naples, Italy, the USO has been making sure that the hospital staff on base know how much their round-the-clock hard work is appreciated. On Hospital Appreciation Day, the USO team delivered bags with a selection of delicious breakfast treats to keep the service members fed and hydrated on the go.
Your support also means that the USO can, in turn, continue to support service members that have been assigned to operate quarantine facilities for troops that have come into contact with the virus. The service members who are maintaining these facilities must work long, demanding shifts that are even more stressful, as they are in closer contact with the virus than others. These snacks might seem like a small gesture in the grand scheme of things, but these simple gestures can make all the difference for our military.
4. You Are Supporting Military Children and Families
This time is challenging for everyone, but especially military children. These small heroes are already facing the challenges of military life, which often involves a constant change of homes, schools and time away from their service member parent. Now, with schools closed and children unable to visit friends, many military children are stuck at home, 24/7. This is even more challenging for military children whose family is stationed overseas, far from everyone and everything familiar, or for those children whose parent is currently deployed.
That’s why the USO and our military supporters have made it possible for military kids around the world to stay entertained, engaged and – most importantly – connected during the coronavirus pandemic by taking some of its most popular programs online.
Local USO centers have launched livestreamed videos of USO story time, hosted virtual scavenger hunts, filmed craft videos, recorded dance classes and more for military families to access online. These programs don’t just keep military kids busy – they also help serve as a light in an otherwise dark and uncertain time.
5. You Are Supporting Service Members Who Are Still on the Front Lines
While the COVID-19 pandemic has stopped most of the world in its tracks, many service members on the front lines carry on regardless of the pandemic. Forward deployed troops must still carry out their essential missions in volatile regions, like the Middle East, to ensure the safety of the American people.
Serving down range on deployment is always a stressful time, but especially when a pandemic is sweeping across the world, and service members are far from home, it can take a toll on our brave men and women in uniform. That’s why, in the midst of mandated USO center closures and newly-implemented health and safety procedures, our USO teams on the ground remain committed to supporting our service members who need us most.
Whether that means taking our Bob Hope Legacy Reading Program on-the-go, so that troops can still record themselves reading bedtime stories to their children back home, or surprising hard-working service members with a snack delivery, the USO is still there with them, every step of the way.
Your support of the USO ensures that our organization can continue the incredibly important work of supporting our nation’s service members and military families, which essential during the coronavirus pandemic. To learn more on how you can help, click here.