By Kayla Clark
It’s 5:15 a.m. on a Tuesday as Jaime Hanley, an Army captain and USO volunteer, begins putting on her first uniform of the day. Only this first uniform isn’t the one you’d imagine – it’s a jumbo fabric coffee cup mascot suit.
Despite the early-morning hour, Jaime is eager to start her volunteer shift at the USO. This morning, she’s preparing freshly brewed coffee, pastries and snacks to deliver to a local command as a breakfast boost morale before they participate in an intense training drill. As Jaime continues preparing for the event, her wife, Meg, also a USO volunteer, is there as well, all decked out in USO swag. She’s busy loading a wagon for the delivery so the two, known as Rota’s “Dynamic Duo,” can head out promptly by 6:15 a.m. to host the sunrise USO event.
When they arrive at event location on base, the pair immediately set up and focus on making the sailors they’re serving laugh and smile, hoping to provide a breath of fresh air and some comforts from home during an especially trying time. As the breakfast event concludes, still well before 9 a.m., Jaime removes her cheery coffee costume and puts on her second uniform of the day: that of an Army captain and the veterinary corps officer for the base.
Moments like this are not unique for Jaime and Meg.
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Since December 2020, the two have been consistently volunteering together at USO Rota and served over 100 hours each in that month alone. Impressively, the pair has managed to volunteer a combined 300 hours for the USO in the short couple of months they’ve been on base. They have volunteered for the fun, exciting holiday events – dressing as elves and delivering expeditionary care packages to deployed units – as well as for the “grunt” work – cleaning and organizing the USO center and storage area on their weekends.
There is nothing these two will shy away from, as long as they have the opportunity to work toward a cause while making people laugh, building relationships within the community and, ultimately, delivering happiness.
A Lifetime of Service
Growing up, Jaime had a choice: either stay home after high school and find a local job or head out into the world. For her, the path forward was easy: join the military.
While still in high school, Jaime submitted her delayed enlistment entry program application for the United States Air Force and reserved her position as an aerospace medical service specialist. On August 27, 1997, her career officially began at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas.
“For the first time in my life, I felt like I belonged and was recognized for working hard,” she said. “The Air Force became my home and it provided me with an immediate supporting cast of leaders and peers who had my best interest in mind … The military camaraderie provided me with an empowering tight-knit feeling of support, confidence and purpose.”
Over the next few years, Jaime served all over the world, from Travis Air Force Base in California, to Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar, to Kirkuk Air Base in Iraq. After serving for almost 10 years, Jaime separated from the military to attend college full-time to pursue becoming a veterinarian.
After completing her first year at the Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine in 2011, she was awarded the Health Professional Scholarship Program and re-joined the military as a commissioned officer in the United States Army. Since graduating college in 2015, she has been serving full-time in the Army as a veterinary corps officer.
Giving Back to the Military Community as a Family
Even before they were married, Meg was never afraid to dive headfirst into life as a military spouse. She knew that active-duty life would take the couple around the world to different locations and she was up for the adventure. For the first time in her life, she moved away from home to support Jaime’s career.
Today, the two have become stalwarts of the USO Rota community. What initially began as a way for Jaime to inspire and empower her team in the Army unit stationed at Naval Station Rota, Spain, grew into a volunteer movement. Their commitment has allowed the Rota USO team to expand operations, provide more programs and serve more commands than the time would have been able to do without the extra help. It has also inspired others to serve as well. The USO proudly describes its work and the work of its supporters as being a Force Behind the Forces® – and Jaime and Meg are the epitome of that statement.
“From my short time here as a volunteer with the USO, I have seen the profound impact the organization has on the local Rota community,” Meg said. “Everyone I encounter while working a volunteer shift or even just in daily life without wearing USO gear is constantly singing praises and offering great thanks to the USO for their impact. Life overseas can have its challenges, and a pandemic made things even more difficult for some this past year. The Rota USO has a tremendous way of making everyone in the community feel like a valued member.”
When asked why the two choose to volunteer, Meg explained that it was the positive effect on the military community that mattered most to her.
“For me, it’s all about the end result – the people on the receiving end of the program or event. The reward of providing a little bit of happiness far exceeds any small headaches involved in getting a program/event up and running,” she said. “Any event can be made fun, it’s all about attitude.”
“As a couple and as an individual … [I get] everything [out of volunteering],” Jaime said. “I get happiness, laughter, growth, development, inspiration, wisdom, relationships and relationship building, stress relief, encouragement, acceptance and belonging. I always tell the USO leadership, ‘Thank you for the Happy Hour!’”
Throughout the last few months, the two have created memories that will last a lifetime – not only for themselves, but for all the service members and their families who they’ve served. So, the next time you see some photos of some USO volunteers dressed in some kind of funky costume, busting out rock jams, dancing and making people laugh as they serve some coffee or hand out service member lunches, think about Jaime and Meg. It may just be them!
-This story was originally published in February 2021.
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