USO Futenma Spreads Holiday Cheer to Military in Japan Despite COVID-19

By Cpl. Karis Mattingly

In Japan, USO Futenma is hosting its “Twelve Days of Grinchmas” event serving 100 cookies each day to Marines and sailors across the base to spread holiday cheer.

Amidst the current COVID-19 environment, the USO has filled its December calendar with events to help service members and their families feel more at home with familiar holiday traditions.

The goal is to serve as many people as possible with 1,200 cookies,” USO Field Programs Manager Lauren Flores said. “Boosting morale is really important to the USO because when you are happy internally, everything else falls into place. We are all very far from home so anything that we can do to help spread that joy is really important to us.

Photo credit DVIDS/Cpl. Karis Mattingly

A USO committee volunteer hands a cookie to a Marine.

The center released a statement expressing the light-hearted theme, stating: “We will start to transform our center into Whoville for the holidays! Just like the Grinch, COVID has tried to steal the holiday cheer from us but we’re not going to let it!”

The USO team was determined to follow through on that promise.

Just being able to give those Marines at least five minutes of happiness was great,” Flores said. “We came in, blasting Christmas music, so people are looking all around, confused. Then when we came around the corner with Santa and cookies, they just lit up. I really saw the joy in people’s faces. It was a good feeling seeing people smile and eating the cookies.”

During the first week of the event, the USO will deliver cookies to Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 267, Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 465, Marine Aircraft Group 36, Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 36, Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 262, Marine Air Control Group 18 and Headquarter and Headquarters Squadron.

“Today was an opportunity to give back to the military community and help spread some holiday cheer to service members while they are overseas away from their families,” said operations officer Capt. Robert V. O’Berg. “All the Marines and sailors that I work day-in and day-out with are someone else’s son and daughter, and their families entrusted to us to help their welfare.”

Photo credit DVIDS/Cpl. Karis Mattingly

An Okinawan USO volunteer helps the field programs manager adjust her costume so they’re ready to deliver holiday cheer.

Within each goodie bag filled with cookies will be an invitation to the “Who-bilation Celebration,” which will be held at the MCAS Futenma USO on Dec. 24 to wrap up the “Grinchmas” festivities. The celebration will include a meal of “roast beast” (roast pig) and traditional Christmas sides. The center will also host a “Cookies for Santa Kits” event on Dec. 22.

The spirit of volunteering helps strengthen social bonds that reinforces why we serve and that message resonates with our allies and partners within the region,” O’Berg said. “Any event that brings spouses, dependents, service members and our Okinawan hosts, fosters a more resilient community that’s going to be able to withstand challenges and endure anything that we may face. Morale is our willpower to help succeed in the face of adversity.

The mission of the USO is to strengthen America’s military service members by keeping them connected to family, home and country, throughout their service to the nation. The USO is a family of volunteers, sustained by the charitable contributions of millions of generous Americans.

“The USO has a historic commitment to supporting the military community,” O’Berg said. “For me it fills my well of fortitude to volunteer, and I will continue to help serve the community because as Marines we lead by example.”

Photo credit DVIDS/Cpl. Karis Mattingly

USO volunteers on Marine Corps Air Station Futenma served 100 cookies each day to Marines and sailors across the base during their “Twelve Days of Grinchmas” event.

-This article was originally on It has been edited for

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