By Danielle DeSimone
Like many patriotic Americans, you want to support the troops – but you’re not exactly sure where to start. There are many military support organizations, military charities and veteran service organizations out there, but it can sometimes be difficult to understand what each one does, what services your donations are going towards, or which are trusted military support organizations that will ensure our troops get the assistance they need.
So, What is a Military Support Organization, Exactly?
According to the Department of Defense (DoD), a military support organization is any organization that supports service members and military families through aid in areas such as employment beyond the military, education, financial assistance and overall well-being.
It is also important to note the difference between a military support organization that supports active-duty service members and their families, such as the USO, versus a veteran organization, which supports service members after they have left service.
The History of Military Support Organizations
The tradition of supporting our nation’s service members while they fight on the front lines is a long one, dating back hundreds of years. However, that tradition did not evolve into planned, military support efforts until World War I, when military support organizations were first created.
Some of these organizations collected donations of books and games from Americans at home to be sent to canteens on the front lines. Others led letter-writing campaigns throughout the war to deliver mail to service members overseas, or grew vegetables in their backyards to help feed the troops.
Some of the largest military support organizations of World War I included the Salvation Army, Young Men’s Christian Association, Young Women’s Christian Association, National Catholic Community Services, National Travelers Aid Association and the National Jewish Welfare Board. Just a few decades later, these six organizations would come together to form the USO in 1941 and support troops fighting in World War II.
In World War II, supporting the troops became an even larger operation. Celebrities joined USO entertainment tours to the front lines of the war, where stars such as Bob Hope and Marlene Dietrich performed in front of thousands of troops. Rosies rallied and began working in factories to produce crucial weapons and ammunition. Everyday Americans rationed their food and sent donations to the troops overseas.
The different ways to support our nation’s heroes have evolved over the years since World War II, but the sentiment behind those actions has remained the same: when service members are laying their lives on the line to protect our freedoms, Americans rally together to support our service members.
What Do Today’s Military Support Organizations Do?
Today, military support organizations provide crucial assistance to active duty, Reserve and Guard service members, military spouses, military children and the larger military community. While there are many reputable veterans’ support organizations across the country, military support organizations like the USO are distinct in the type of services they provide, as the majority of military support organizations work with active duty military and their families, not veterans.
Modern military support organizations can provide support such as sending care packages to deployed troops, providing resources to military spouses in search of employment, raising awareness around issues affecting military families or assisting in the rehabilitation of wounded troops. The goal of many military support organizations is to offer both real, tangible support that can affect change in a service member’s life, as well as overall care and connection that boosts morale.
What Does the USO Do as a Military Support Organization?
For a military support organization such as the USO, the primary focus is ensuring that the soldiers, sailors, airmen, Coast Guard members and Marines currently serving in the Armed Forces – as well as their military spouses and dependents – have the support they need to carry out their mission. So, who can go to the USO for that support? Active duty service members, reservists, National Guard members and military families.
The USO supports active duty service members from the moment they enlist to the moment they hang up their uniform for the final time and transition out of the military. And while the USO continues the long-standing tradition of boosting troops’ morale by delivering celebrities and entertainment right to the front lines, our organization’s support extends far beyond that. With more than 250 locations around the world and a force of thousands of volunteers, our mission is to ensure that service members are connected to family, home and country no matter where their service takes them. By doing so, service members are bolstered, supported and can focus on the crucial work they do every day to keep us safe.
For those troops on the front lines, USO centers are often the only refuge for service members to take a moment to themselves. They serve as a lifeline between service members and their loved ones back home, with access to free Wi-Fi, internet, phones and programs such as the Bob Hope Legacy Reading Program.
For military spouses, military support organizations such as the USO offer networking opportunities and mentorship for those navigating the search for employment or those simply looking for connections to other military spouses who are overcoming the same challenges as them.
And for all members of military families, the USO provides resources for their transition out of the military through the USO Pathfinder® transition program, which guides service members and military spouses through a customized action plan that helps with everything from education, to financial management to the next stage of civilian employment.
The services and resources available to the military community via the USO is extensive; to learn more about the many other ways your donation helps the USO support the military community, click here.
No matter the challenge or where they are serving, military support organizations are there to ensure America’s service members and military families receive the care, resources and support they need to carry out their mission in service to this country.
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