Being in the military can come with a sense of uncertainty that other professions may not necessarily relate to. “When will I deploy? Will I be promoted? (This is an important question because so much rides on it – how you are seen among your peers, and will you be forced to leave the military earlier if not selected by a promotion board). Is moving my family beneficial for our quality of life?” We are committed to the government – and if we don’t put them first, it can cost us dearly.
Turns out, my sense of pride about the military was triggered not so much by joining, but by the organizations that support them. Moving to Washington, D.C., gave me a great perspective on the services they provide us, since most of them are headquartered here.
One of my favorites, the USO is a household name. It got that way by the incredible means in which they reach out to the military through entertainment, locally and overseas. The amenities at their USO lounges in airports and on bases are always a nice perk when I’m on travel. Their overseas shows lift the spirits of the men and women who are visited by entertainers who also care about the sacrifices they make.
An understanding community support system is essential. It may be anything from emotional support during a deployment to understanding how your GI Bill benefits work for you after new legislation is enacted. Your military comrades will certainly guide you through many things, but service members and their families have a lot of outside resources to draw from. We also have many constraints politically, which make non-profit groups that lobby for military benefits on Capitol Hill an important advocate for us.
Working with such organizations as the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA), and Reserve Officers Association (ROA), have helped me communicate messages to Congress that service members in uniform are normally limited to. Because of their advocacy on Capitol Hill, reservists have received pay increases, voting reform, and education enhancement.
Not only have I been on the receiving end of enjoying incentives, but on the flip-side, I had the honor of going on a morale-boosting trip to Iraq and Kuwait two years ago (provided by another company, not the USO), to visit service members. I was with the Sweethearts for Soldiers, a group of fabulous ladies who are former NFL or NBA cheerleaders. What makes them so unique is that one of their criteria, besides having been a professional cheerleader, is to have a strong passion or tie to the military. I saw firsthand what a difference we made by meeting the troops, hearing their stories, and just being a friendly face from home.
Whether you’re just curious about what’s out there, or interested in becoming more involved, I’d encourage you to check out my blog. The side rail lists extensive links to military charities, ones that I’ve either worked with, or written about. In my postings, I try to provide an inside glimpse of what they do. There is so much that organizations are doing behind the scenes, and I believe they enhance our overall experience in the military.
Jessica is a naval officer in the reserves. She attends military events, and is involved in many non-profit charities, blogging about them in her blog, G.I. Jess. She serves on the board of Veteran Tickets Foundation and is the Jr. Naval VP for the Reserve Officers Association DC branch. The opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of Jessica and do not necessarily reflect those of the USO.
More from the USO
Jul 20, 2016
'We’re Here for the Soldiers’: How One Volunteer Couple Answered the Call to Serve at USO Fort Hood
Anne Cosper always wanted to volunteer at the USO. So when her daughter, who currently serves in the U.S. Army, was reassigned to Fort Hood – only an hour drive from her Georgetown, Texas, home – she decided it was the perfect opportunity to get involved at the USO center on base.
Jul 20, 2016
How USO SeaTac’s ‘Banana’ Bob Got His Nickname
Bob Harris first began volunteering at the USO Northwest Seattle-Tacoma International Airport center in 2013. Shortly after he started, he was asked if he’d be interested in picking up donated bananas and bringing them to the airport center once a week. It wasn’t long after his first delivery that Bob realized the donations runs had earned him a new nickname.