Service Members Reflect on USO Acts of Kindness

By Danielle DeSimone

At the USO, every day is Random Acts of Kindness Day. After all, as a military support nonprofit, we’re in the business of improving the daily lives of our service members and their military families year-round.

Sometimes, that support comes from big programs or campaigns, but oftentimes, it’s the little moments that really make a difference. The small, random acts of kindness from a member of the USO team – whether that be an employee, USO volunteer, or even a USO entertainer – that pass by in an instant, but can completely change a service member’s experience.

Here are 10 random acts of kindness that service members have experienced with the USO, sent to us and written in their own words.

1. Travel Troubles Eased by a Little Help from the USO

My wife has to stay in the Indianapolis airport terminal overnight tonight in order to catch an early flight tomorrow. I called the Indianapolis USO to inquire about any assistance they might be able to provide to her. Jeff was absolutely brilliant and kind as he emailed the Indianapolis airport security team to update them that my wife will be there overnight.

Additionally, he and his team are providing a pillow, a blanket and much-needed information to my wife about how to safely grab a few hours of sleep in the terminal overnight. I am overwhelmed by the generosity of Jeff and his team and wish to relay a big ‘thank you!’ to each of them for taking care of my wife during her transit.

– Jim R.

2. A Reminder of Home on the Front Lines During the Holidays

Photo credit USO Photo

A rare, live Christmas tree was donated to the Tan Son Nhut USO in Vietnam just a few days before Christmas in 1969. These small moments of holiday cheer were not always easy to come by, and the USO’s presence in-country was crucial in creating these connections to home.

I first came in contact with USO in 1965. It was in the early evening hours of Christmas Eve after we had finished leaving the ship in Saigon Harbor. The troops were offered a cup of strong hot coffee [from the USO]. To me, it was a very welcome treat, one I shall never forget, but the best was the next day when three 21-ton trucks arrived with USO Care Packages and packages from home. That is why I donate to this day. Thanks … to all of the USO employees around the world.

– Charles H., Vietnam War Veteran

3. A Letter of Thanks from a Time in Need

Photo credit USO Photo

A USO Volunteer welcomes a service member to USO Fort Stewart, Georgia.

To the USO Midway Center at Midway International Airport in Chicago,

After completing two weeks of trauma recovery in Chicago, I was transported to Midway International Airport almost four hours before my flight. I was directed to use the USO at the airport. It gave me a safe place to wait, which was truly needed at this time for me. The USO volunteer was so hospitable in introducing me to the center and was exceptional in providing me with the comfort I needed. I am truly blessed and thankful to have such selfless volunteers helping out our military personnel.

- Semper Fi, Jackie B., U.S. Marine Corps

4. Moments of Levity on the Front Lines of Vietnam

When I was 21 years old, I was in the Army, stationed in Vietnam in the northern part, and our unit had nothing to do after our regular duties except go to the NCO club. So, three of the guys in the unit started asking what could be done to get something to have some fun, such as football, softball, volleyball – you know, sports stuff, so we got in touch with the USO. Within three weeks, all of the stuff showed up and we started playing games against each other and other units in the area. It was wonderful and made our stay a lot better. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Bless you and stay safe.

– Robert S.

5. How Small Tokens of Appreciation Make All the Difference

My story is from when I was in the Navy at Naval Training Center Great Lakes, located in north Chicago, in 2001. Over the holidays, the USO would provide all active personnel with special holiday treats like candy and baked goods, as well as Christmas cards from families throughout the U.S. – especially for those of us who were unable to return home on leave during the holidays. These small tokens of hospitality had a positive impact on morale and reminded all of us how appreciated our service meant to our country.

– Robert S.

6. A Safe Place to Land

Photo credit USO Photo

A Marine takes a moment to rest in a USO airport lounge.

I was on my way to another deployment during Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom and because of weather, got stranded in the airport overnight. With nowhere to stay the night and traveling by myself, the USO allowed me to sleep on their couch and have access to their water fountain. They said I was free to leave at any time, but because it was going to be after hours, they had to lock the door, which meant once I left the center, I couldn’t get back in. This may not seem like a lot, but to a young airman traveling alone in a possibly dangerous area, a comfy couch in a secure room meant the world to me. Thank you USO!

– Lloyd C.

7. A Little Help Along the Way

During my deployment to Kosovo in September 2008, I was notified that my mother, who had stage 4 breast cancer for a couple of years, was taking a turn for the worse. Her doctors said if I wanted to see her before she died, I needed to come home ASAP on emergency leave. My command removed me from the mission we were currently on near the Serbian border and transported me back to Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo. Within 48 hours, I was in a vehicle headed to Alexander the Great International Airport in North Macedonia. From there I flew to Vienna Austria with no issues. The next stop was Frankfurt, Germany.

When I got there, at O-dark thirty, I found the nearest check-in and I was informed that I did not have the necessary paperwork. My S-1 [administration officer] had omitted that paperwork and in my haste, I did not think to ask how this process would work – and I could not understand how I got through two international airports without this paperwork. I was talking with the German manager of the airline, with whom I pleaded my case. He said there was nothing he could do until I had that documentation, but he was confident he could help me and showed me where the USO center was. He said that they will open at 0700 and to be here when they open.

True to his word, just before 0700 (0640-ish, I think) a gentleman showed up early and, if I remember correctly, he was a retired first sergeant. When I explained my situation to him, it was full speed ahead. He made contact with my unit and in very short order they were faxing the necessary paperwork. I made it to my gate a half hour or so before boarding started and later reunited with my mom and dad. Coupled with time and that I have a bad memory, I cannot remember the USO employee’s name, but the actions he took on my behalf will never be forgotten. He is the reason that I donate to the USO and will as long as there is a USO.

– Mark E.

8. A Small Gesture Goes a Long Way

Photo credit USO Photo

USO team members welcome and greet service members in Kandahar, Afghanistan, in 2017.

I have come home from combat many times. Every time I could, I stopped at the USO.

This one time, after being gone 11 months and during a back-to-back [deployment], I stopped at a USO center, kicked back and the USO volunteer brought me Girl Scout thin mints and milk. It was the best I have ever had that day. It was a rough deployment but the volunteer … well, she made my year with that gesture of kindness.

Thank you,

– David E.

9. How a USO Entertainer’s Kindness Made All the Difference in Vietnam

Photo credit Courtesy Photo

A photo of Dennis F. who, while recuperating in Vietnam, was visited by American actress Mary Grover. According to Dennis, Grover signed the back of the photo: “Hope you get better real soon, Mary Grover from L.A.”

I was a combat photographer in the Marine Corps in Vietnam and was wounded in September of 1967. I had been in-country a little over nine months at the time. After coming out of surgery in Da Nang, I was still a little groggy from the effects of the anesthesia when Mary Grover, on a tour with the USO, appeared at my bedside. She spent some time talking with me and several other Marines as our commander was going from bed to bed, presenting Purple Hearts. I always appreciated the fact that she came all the way to Vietnam to be with the Marines, and to the USO for making it possible, but never really had the opportunity to tell her or the USO that.

If you have any way of tracking her down, tell her “thank you” from Dennis Fisher and thank all of you at the USO for continuing to support our troops.

– Dennis F.

– Editor’s Note: Mary Grover is an actress who served as a USO entertainer on two USO tours during the Vietnam War.

10. Finding Support and Connection During a Difficult Time

First time I experienced what y’all truly did, was when I was six years of age, shortly after the heartbreak of 9/11. We lived at Baumholder, Germany, at the time, so my stepfather was one of the first to deploy. The drive and energy y’all had to push for a happier, more motivated soldier gave me goosebumps and chills. Seeing the respect and love y’all gave the soldiers to let them know to stay happy and that their families were there for them by delivering deployment boxes of goodies from everyone they missed, as well as the millions of letters from all ends of the USA that were written by random children to show their love and support … helping us stay connected so they didn’t feel so far away … That was my experience and the only one I ever needed to love y’all.

It’s actually because of y’all that I joined the military. So, in every way I imaginable, thank you for YOUR service to our country and for the many that gave some but most importantly for the few that gave their all.

– Dakota H.

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Every day, America’s service members selflessly put their lives on the line to keep us safe and free. Please take a moment to let our troops know how much we appreciate their service and sacrifice.

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