USS Hershel Woody Williams Sailors Received a Sunny Welcome to Italy From the USO

By Kayla Clark

On a sunny day in Sigonella, after months of being away from their families at sea, sailors abroad the USS Hershel “Woody” Williams were welcomed to southern Italy. From the warm smiles of USO Sigonella staff and volunteers to sweet Sicilian blood orange juice, savory local arancini and two full days of morale-boosting programming, these service members were greeted with incredible USO hospitality.

These sailors had spent the last several months in the Gulf of Guinea and Western Africa. For sailors on deployment, port visits aren’t always frequent. Many times, ships are out to sea for weeks at a time before pulling in for supplies, and during those precious port visits, these people who serve are finally able to spend some time getting rest, connecting with loved ones and preparing for the rest of the deployment ahead. And considering the current, heightened tensions out at sea in various parts of the world, a morale boost and a way to unwind from their daily stressful tasks can make all the difference. And USO Sigonella did just that.

A sailor holds a USO Care Package given to him by the USO Sigonella team. | Photo credit USO Photo

As the crew pulled into the island, sailors were welcomed by USO volunteers who handed out USO Care Packages filled with their favorite American snacks and crucial hygiene items. The USO team then hosted two programs for the sailors, filled with both friendly competition and the connection to family back home.

In the mess decks – AKA, the ship cafeteria – over 100 sailors competed in multiple rounds of bingo, with the opportunity to relax a bit and enjoy quality time with their fellow service members. A private space was also set up and dedicated to the USO Reading Program. Here, service members can select and record themselves reading a book for their child back home. The book and the recording are both sent back home to their family where their child can stay connected to their service member who is far away from home – and, like all USO programs, it is free of charge.

A sailor utilizes the USO Reading Program provided by the USO Sigonella team. | Photo credit USO Photo

The USO Reading Program is just one of the many ways that the USO aims to connect service members with their families back home. Not only can military parents record themselves reading a book to their loved ones, but the program also gives the opportunity for overseas military kids and families to do the same for their service member on deployment or for their extended families back home. To be on the receiving end of this program for a spouse or child is truly a special gift when the service member is away.

It was a momentous day for USO Sigonella,” shared Senior Center Manager Casey Pizzuto. “Witnessing the smiles on their faces when we served them warm arancini and refreshing Sicilian juice was truly heartening. It’s remarkable how even the smallest of gestures can travel a long way in bringing joy.”

For two full days, the USO Sigonella team was there on the ship, delivering happiness and continuing the theme of fun programming, competition and the opportunity for sailors to send a special reading surprise back stateside.

Sailors are still talking about how much they enjoyed [the USO’s] visit,” shared one service member. “Thank you all so much.”

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