By David Yoo
“Military supporters” come in all shapes and sizes, but regardless of their role, they are the people who ensure the USO can carry out its work in supporting service members and military families. And we could not do that important work without the thousands of USO volunteers who are boots-on-the-ground, supporting our nation’s military every day at USO locations all around the world.
Mr. Kwangnam Kim is one such USO volunteer, and he is one of the most crucial volunteers at USO Humphreys in South Korea.
As a former Republic of Korea (ROK) Army Officer and a current civilian employee at U.S. Forces Korea Headquarters, Mr. Kim has served a total of 47 years for both the U.S. and ROK militaries.
His first experience with the USO was in 1985, when he was in military training at Defense Mapping School in Fort Belvoir, Virginia, and went to the USO at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport nearby.
“I asked people at the USO if I could take a rest, and they got me snacks and drinks for free,” Mr. Kim said. “Their couches were very comfortable, and I was able to relax and rest during the long travel from and to Korea, to and from the United States.”
Afterward, he undertook more military training in the United States, including in San Antonio, Texas, and where the USO always welcomed him to their center.
When Mr. Kim retired from the ROK Army in 1996, he wanted to continue his service to support the U.S.–ROK alliance, so he decided to work at the U.S. Forces Korea, the joint headquarters for U.S. and South Korean combat-ready fighting forces and components under the U.S.-ROK Combined Forces. He has been working at the headquarter office ever since.
From 1996 to 2012, he attended approximately ten meetings and trainings in the United States, and each time he traveled, he utilized the USO services on every business trip. It was on these trips that Mr. Kim realized how much support he had received from the USO, and wanted to give back to the USO and U.S. military community. And so he visited USO Humphreys, south of Seoul, to find out how to start volunteering. He soon became an active volunteer in December 2021.
So far, Mr. Kim’s total volunteer service hours is up to 113 hours, and he also volunteers when he is off-duty, or requests time off from work to volunteer during the week.
“The USO was where I used to rest with free drinks and snacks, but it became a place for me to volunteer,” he said. “I’m very proud of myself for supporting the great organization which supports the military service members who sacrifice to keep everyone safe.”
Mr. Kim’s first volunteer service was during the 10th Asian Games in Seoul in 1986, where he led Olympians from other countries from the bus to their hotel, and from their hotel to the stadiums. From this volunteering experience, he realized how volunteering and volunteers themselves are essential in the community, which was another reason he was inspired to volunteer at the USO.
Beyond his volunteer work with the USO, Mr. Kim spends his extra time helping U.S. service members and civilians by organizing bicycle riding and marathon groups in U.S. Forces Korea HQ and 8th Army HQ. He enjoys showing his group members around Korea, riding and running together for them to enjoy their time while they are stationed in his home country. They have ridden bicycles from Incheon to Busan together – approximately 200 miles.
Mr. Kim is about to retire from his current position in 3 years, and he plans to volunteer at USO Humphreys until he retires. But even after he retires, Mr. Kim is willing to continue to support service members.
After discussing his experiences as a military supporter, he said, “I participated in various programs and events, but I truly enjoyed the Motor Pool Monday. We drove to the motor pools on USAG Humphreys to serve free drinks and snacks to soldiers working outside. It was meaningful because I could do something for them while they were on their mission in Korea, far from their home. Also, it was a pleasure to share that time with young soldiers who reminded me of a memory from my military service.”
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