By Danielle DeSimone
For service members deployed to conflict zones, the USO is always ready to provide support and a home away from home, no matter where their service takes them. Nothing speaks louder about the commitment of your USO - and the trust the military has in us - than our presence alongside these forward-deployed troops.
Now, in the wake of recent events in Eastern Europe, in which 100,000 Russian troops, tanks, artillery and heavy equipment amassed along the Ukraine border, the USO stands fast in its support of the thousands of American service members preparing for a possible deployment to the region.
According to the Department of Defense (DOD), approximately 8,500 American troops from North Carolina, Kentucky, Colorado, Texas, Washington, Louisiana and Arizona have been placed on a heightened alert to deploy to Eastern Europe, should Russia invade Ukraine.
Sudden deployments like these can be incredibly challenging for military families. One moment, you’re making plans for the weekend and deciding who will pick up groceries on the way home – and the next you’re packing your bags in a rush, canceling that vacation you had planned, missing your daughter’s birthday and saying goodbye to your spouse, your children and your friends.
Meanwhile, the stress of what might await you on the other side of deployment hangs heavy over your final moments with your loved ones before you answer the call of duty. Suddenly, life goes from everyday normalcy to preparing for the possibility of life on the front lines.
“This is something they train for. Soldiers do layout after layout preparing to grab their bags and go at a moment’s notice” said the spouse of a soldier on Fort Bragg who is on standby to deploy. “Each time the phone rings or he gets a text, we wonder if it’s time.“
No matter how much a spouse mentally prepares, nothing can explain the way it feels to watch them walk out the door.
According to the Blue Star Families 2020 Military Lifestyle Survey, deployment and time spent away from family were two of the top five issues facing active duty, Reserve and National Guard families today.
And while our nation’s service members stand at the ready for any possible orders, regardless of the pressure it may put on themselves and their families, the USO stands with them, ready to support them in any way we can.
How to Help Ease the Stress of Preparing for Deployments
In response to the potential mobilization of these units, USO staff and volunteers immediately launched efforts to support these troops and military families.
For example, on Fort Bragg, North Carolina, USO staff is providing service members with water, energizing drinks and healthy snacks in preparation for their possible long journey overseas. They also are providing USO Care Packages, which come in two varieties: Hygiene Kits – equipped with travel-sized toiletries – and Snack Packs, filled with healthy snacks and drink mixes that will be useful in transit and remind them that the American people appreciate their service.
Each USO Care Package is constructed with a durable nylon material that has a M.O.L.L.E. system on the back of the pouch, so that service members can easily attach the care package on most military-issued gear – ideal for troops on the move. So far, almost 10,000 USO Care Packages have been shipped out to be distributed to troops slated for a possible deployment as tensions in Ukraine escalate.
USO staff on Fort Bragg are also preparing hot meals for service members and their families, knowing that amid such a busy time, having a warm meal ready can be not just helpful, but also incredibly comforting.
Although preparing for a possible deployment can be stressful, the USO is always there to help alleviate the tension. In fact, according to USO research, 94% of surveyed service members reported that USO Programs ease their stress during deployment, and 96% feel more connected to their loved ones during absence through the use of USO programs.
These programs, offered in the face of a possible deployment to a conflict zone, are made possible by the support of generous donors and can truly make all the difference. By alleviating tension and boosting morale, our service members can feel the support of the American people, which can provide them a boost and the strength they need to be able to refocus on the task at hand. By connecting with military spouses and military families, the USO can offer support to those waiting at home and assure them that they are part of a much larger military community that is ready to help them at any moment.
If these troops are mobilized, the USO is ready to support them throughout their deployment as well. No matter the location or conflict, the USO remains steadfast in its mission, as we have for more than 80 years, of keeping our troops connected to family, home and country, just when they need it most.
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