By Marcie Smith West
Jody Brissette knew the importance of the USO mission long before he started working for the organization as the USO Pōhakuloa Training Area center manager in Hawaii.
When Jody first joined the Army and was on his way to his first duty station of Camp Casey, South Korea, he was suddenly stranded at the San Francisco International Airport. Faced with a long delay during a somewhat stressful time, Jody was ready to settle in and wait in any available chair – that is, until a USO volunteer found him in the terminal and checked him into the USO airport lounge, where he could spend the rest of his time at the airport.
Jody always remembered that kindness and would go on to visit USO centers across the globe throughout his active-duty service. He also brought other soldiers to the USO when they needed a break.
“The USO was a place where we know we would be heard, and staff and volunteers wanted to know about our life and how we were doing,” Jody said. “This is especially important when you are deployed or training, where there are very few resources for service members.”
While in the Army, Brisette worked both with the military police and with protective services. He has been stationed worldwide and is proud of his time on active duty. Wearing a uniform means something to him.
“The uniform means that no matter how different you may be from the other person wearing it, you have something in common, and it creates a bond.”
Jody’s belief in the USO’s mission of strengthening America’s service members by keeping them connected to family, home and country throughout their service to the nation has made him the perfect fit for his current role at the USO.
Furthermore, his experience in the Army and the time he spent training at the Pōhakuloa Training Area gave him a unique perspective and has helped him create programs and services that meet the needs of the service members training on the island.
“Jody lives the USO mission daily and epitomizes the heart of the USO. He is kind, compassionate, fun-loving and smart,” said USO Indo-Pacific Director of Operations Paul Pisano, who has seen Jody’s commitment firsthand when visiting the center. “He works hard to make sure everyone feels welcome, no matter who they are.”
The USO Pōhakuloa Training Area center, located on the island of Hawaii, is different from most USO centers. When a unit is on the island for a training rotation, hundreds of service members can be waiting in line to get into the center before it opens. The USO staff at this location have to be ready when the troops come to the island.
Jody and team are also on-call for when the service members leave the shooting range. After a long, hard day in the field, these service members can always use a little boost, and so as soon as he gets the word, Jody will drop everything and just start cooking. One of the soldiers’ favorites is grilled cheese sandwiches.
But at USO Pōhakuloa Training Area, a grilled cheese sandwich isn’t just a grilled cheese sandwich. It can be the first time a service member has something other than MREs during training. The grilled cheese can be a connection to life at home with family, and it can also be an act of kindness.
No one knows that better than someone whose been through it themselves – which is why Jody’s support of these service members continues to make an incredible impact on the military community in Hawaii.
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