A Military Spouse Shares Her Journey to Service as a USO Volunteer in Guam

By Trey Smith

Although Guam is about 7,000 miles away from the continental United States, the island has been made a “home away from home” for service members stationed there thanks to our organization’s selfless USO volunteers.

For Alina Wilson, our 2023 USO Indo-Pacific Region Volunteer of the Year, volunteering and creating a home for these service members and the local military community is personal.

Alina’s Journey to Service

Alina began her journey volunteering for USO Guam in February 2022, when she and her family moved to Guam from Japan, where they had lived for ten years due to her husband’s career in the U.S. Marine Corps. Like many military families, Alina has had the experience of living her life in transit, always ready to pack up her family and life to quickly move to a new city, country or continent – and start a new life.

Alina Wilson, a military spouse and the 2023 USO Indo-Pacific Volunteer of the Year. | Photo credit Courtesy Photo

It was during these many moves and travels as a military spouse when Alina first became interested in volunteering for the USO, as she began to notice USO Centers in airports.

“We were traveling a lot, so I’ve seen USO [Centers] in airports,” Alina said. “We visited a lot, and I thought it was kind of cool. Then when we got here to Guam, I was very impressed with the USOs here. I really wanted to volunteer, and I thought that [it would be] perfect to give back to [the] community and help military service people.”

Soon after her family got settled on Guam, Alina decided to speak with a manager at USO Tumon Bay and the next thing she knew she was working her very first shift with USO Andersen. Alina recalls being very nervous and shy during her first shift, and was reluctant to be the Center greeter for every service member or military family who walked through the door.

“I asked them specifically not to put me at the front for greeting because my customer service wasn’t good yet. I really wanted to learn before I put myself out there,” Alina said.

Alina has become an impeccable asset to the USO since that first shift two years ago. From preparing the Center for opening and preparing food and snacks for military members, to giving tours and making sure the Center is stocked for everyone’s needs, Alina has been a steadfast presence that has positively impacted the USO and the local military community.

After only two years of volunteering, Alina has become a steadfast presence for USO Guam. | Photo credit USO Photo

It’s that impact that service members stationed on Guam continue to benefit from. Service members stationed here are not only thousands of miles away from home and on a remote military base, but they are also suddenly dealing with the challenges of living in an entirely different culture. USO Centers and volunteers like Alina can help these military members feel a sense of connection to both home and their new community.

Alina’s Dedication and Recognition for Service

Just like members of the military community, USO volunteers come from all different walks of life, helping our organization turn our mission of strengthening the well-being of the people serving in America’s military and their families into an everyday reality. And we can continue to find ways to recognize their selfless sacrifice and dedication in strengthening their local military communities.

Alina strengthened the military community of Guam when the island was devastated by Super Typhoon Mawar in May 2023. Guam is home to not just 20,000 service members, but also several USO staff and volunteers, including Alina, and everyone was affected by the typhoon.

The military community on Guam continue to benefit from USO volunteers like Alina. | Photo credit USO Photo

“It was [a] pretty big and devastating [storm] for the whole community on Guam. We didn’t have any power and water in some places,” Alina said. “We worked really hard in Tumon USO to get it back on. We cleaned every day. We got there and tried to prepare the Center to open as fast as we could.”

Much of the USO staff were navigating the damage done to their own homes due to the storm. Still, they were able to rise to the occasion and help their local military community, many of whom were dealing with no power or air conditioning in the middle of the hot and humid Guam summer. Alina provided invaluable support during this time, particularly during the post-typhoon clean-up when hundreds of service members and families sought refuge at the USO daily as the community recovered.

Alina played a huge role in helping the USO Center open its doors in the immediate aftermath of the typhoon to provide air conditioning, Wi-Fi connectivity, phones to call home, as well as snacks and coffee. She went the extra mile every day by arriving early to prepare the Center for opening and often stayed late to provide much-needed support.

“In my time [during Typhoon Mawar], we had a family that came in – their house didn’t have electricity, so they brought their children just to sit in the air [and] cool down in the air conditioning room,” Alina shared. “They were so grateful after, they told us every time they came. They were so happy just to come and cool down and see friendly faces.”

Photo credit USO Photo

Alina and USO staff host a Letters to Santa event.

Just two years after beginning her service with the USO, Alina was honored with the 2023 USO Regional Volunteer of the Year Award. For Alina, it’s not only the honor and recognition that she is grateful for, it’s also the invaluable memories that she’s created while volunteering there. Experiences that have stood out include watching military children immerse themselves in the holiday spirit while writing letters to Santa – children who may find it otherwise difficult to get in the holiday spirit due to the warm, tropical climate of the island; and hosting USO Coffee Connections, where military spouses can come and connect with each other while engaging in a fun activity, such as arts and crafts and yoga.

Volunteers like Alina are the heart of the USO, and without them, our mission of providing support to the people who serve wouldn’t be possible. And for military spouses like Alina, being able to pay it forward to their own community allows them to connect with other military families along the way.

Are you interested in giving back to the people who serve and volunteering with the USO? Learn more about what it means to be a USO Volunteer and if there’s a USO Center near you by clicking here!

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