What is the First Thing You’ll Do When You Get Home? Service Members Deployed to Eastern Europe Share Their Answers

USO Photo

By Danielle DeSimone

What is “home”? Is it a place? A group of people? Is it the twinkle of lights in the window as you pull into your grandmother’s driveway? Is it the smell of cinnamon and nutmeg blooming out of the kitchen? The laughter of your children as they roll in the snow? The comfort that comes from a meal shared with friends and family?

Whatever “home” might be to you, for our nation’s service members who are deployed overseas this holiday season, home is a little farther out of reach. It can be especially difficult for military members to be apart from family and friends during this time, and even missing the little things – like certain snacks or meals – can make life on the front lines all the more challenging.

That’s why, with the help of generous Americans, the USO is always by the side of our service members to offer support and a little piece of home to keep spirits high. Here are the things American troops in Eastern Europe, responding to the war in Ukraine, miss most about home during the holidays, and how the USO is supporting them.

What’s the first thing you’ll do when you get back home from deployment?

‘The first thing I’ll do when I get back home … I’m going to go to my mom’s house and I’m going to ask her to make me some food.’ - U.S. Army Cpl. Justine Perkins
'The first thing I want to do when I get back home is probably take a nap. Well, also have that home cooked meal. I can’t wait for that.’ - U.S. Army 1st Lt. Sean McConnaughhay
'When I go home after this deployment, I’m going to the beach with my mom and my dad. It’ll be nice to just be together even if we don’t do anything. Just to go home’ - U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Sierra Capobianco
'The first thing I’ll do when I get back home is one: make sure all my soldiers make it to their families. And then I’m going to take some needed time to go visit my family … The first thing I’m going do is give my kids a hug, give my wife a big hug … and we’re going to go on a trip and I’m going to spend as much time as I can with them.’ - U.S. Army Lt. Col. Reginald “Reggie” White

How the USO is Supporting Service Members in Eastern Europe During the Holidays

We can’t literally bring these service members home for the holidays – but we can bring them a piece of home during the holidays.

Throughout the holiday season – and year-round – the USO works hard to provide service members, both deployed and stationed overseas, with the comforts of home that are difficult to come by on the front lines, and crucial for maintaining morale and mental health.

Our service members may miss out on their family’s traditional holiday meal while deployed, but the USO can still ensure they receive a delicious, home-cooked meal on the big day. They may miss the feeling of warmth and comfort that comes from being at home, but they can turn to their USO center on base for “a home away from home,” where there is always comfortable seating, TVs, games, activities and more to share among their fellow troops.

Photo credit USO Photo

Service members enjoy a warm meal, even when thousands of miles from home.

And deployed service members may miss being with their families and friends every day, but they can use the USO’s free Wi-Fi, phones and computers to call home and stay connected to their loved ones, even from thousands of miles (and hours of time difference) away.

Photo credit USO Photo

Many service members who deployed to Eastern Europe in the first wave of deployments in 2022 were instructed to leave their phones and laptops behind. Through the USO’s secure network and provided phones, these troops can still call home and stay in touch with loved ones.

“Being able to call home, be able to sit and have fun with your friends and your teammates and an opportunity just to relax in an environment where you just don’t know what tomorrow will look like … [the USO] was just a remarkable thing to have on the ground,” said Reggie.

The answer to “what is ‘home’?” becomes more loosely defined when you’re spending months downrange in Eastern Europe, as a war rages on in Ukraine, just miles away. Home is, of course, the important things – our loved ones, families, friends – but it can sometimes be found in small moments of reprieve and comfort.

Thanks to the support of our donors, the USO can provide those moments to American service members during the holidays, as well as connections to loved ones, no matter where in the world their service takes them.

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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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