By Marisela Rodriguez
Located in Terminal B of the Dallas Fort Worth (DFW) International Airport is the main location for USO Dallas Fort-Worth. With over 1.8 million visits since its opening in 2004, the airport center is mostly run by approximately 200 active volunteers. Among that group of dedicated volunteers is Patty Marking.
Marking first saw an ad for USO volunteers in 2009 and decided to look into the opportunity. After her son went to Air Force basic training, she decided to take the leap in 2010 and join the USO volunteer team. She was immediately hooked.
“After seeing all those troops being served food, drinks, watching TV, playing games, on the computer talking with their loved ones … the camaraderie with the volunteers and the troops, I knew this is where I wanted to be. I knew this is how I would be able to connect with my son during his service,” Marking said.
For the past 11 years, Marking has been volunteering for weekly shifts and special events at the USO in addition to her job.
A Call to Serve the Families of the Fallen
Marking holds a unique volunteer role at USO Dallas-Fort Worth as the team lead for the Fallen Hero Program, which supports families of fallen service members who are traveling through the DFW Airport.
Last year when the pandemic temporarily closed USO centers across the world, USO Dallas-Fort Worth remained committed to supporting Families of the Fallen through the Fallen Hero Program.
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Marking herself switched gears to work from home and made sure she was available to coordinate the time-sensitive details of any incoming dignified transfers. Marking noted that these logistics were sometimes tricky, as there were often delays or cancellations, and her phone was continuously buzzing with email and text notifications since she was not able to be physically present to help plan.
As the team lead for the program, Marking also helped ensure that Families of the Fallen were supported in person from a safe, social distance by at least one volunteer.
“We are there when it’s raining, snowing or 110 degrees. The USO Fallen Hero Team will always find a way to be there for our men and women of the Armed Forces,” Marking said.
“Even COVID-19 will not stop the USO from continuing our missions.”
Memories from Over a Decade of USO Service
With 11 years of USO service under her belt, Marking has scores of memories from her time at the center.
In particular, she remembers a time when a brother of a fallen service member visited the center and spoke with her. Like the mother she is, she listened.
“He said he was not sure if he should continue his Army training after what happened to his brother,” Marking said. “The only thing I could tell him was to listen to his heart and think about it before acting on it and make sure you talk to someone more qualified than me.”
Two months later, Marking was volunteering at the center when she heard someone call her name: it was the young man she had spoken with, who was now wearing a uniform. He told her that he thought about what his fallen older brother would want him to do and he decided to continue his training.
“Most of the time we don’t ask or even talk with the families, but sometimes they want to,” Marking said.
This year, Marking was honored for her dedication to service as the 2020 Central Region Volunteer of the Year. She has volunteered over 5,400 hours since 2010 and the USO is proud to call her a member of our volunteer family.
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