Holidays for Heroes: The USO spreads holiday cheer to every corner in Korea
Military life can be a daunting task for Service Members and their Families. Demands on time, effort, and attention set our men and women in uniform apart from most of their civilian counterparts. These especially pose unique challenges for Service Members who are far from home during the Holidays and grapple with separation, from their families, spouses, children, and loved ones, but also from the meaningful traditions that connect them with each other and their community.
Enter the United Service Organizations, known as the USO. Conceived by President Franklin D. Roosevelt even before the US formally entered WWII, the Congressionally-charted non-profit organization seeks to help our Service Members and their families connect with home, family, and country. Through an array of wholesome programs that includes entertainment, reading, home-cooked meals, birthday celebrations, travel, tours, on-line gaming, and cultural events to name a few, the USO is always by the side of our uniformed personnel and their families.
One of the ways the USO works to address separation from home and traditions is through Holidays for Heroes, an initiative designed to bring the comforts of home to Service Members wherever they are during the Holiday Season. Since the program’s inception in 2009, when a USO Christmas Convoy travelled to Southwest Asia to reach Troops in the most remote deployed locations, Holidays for Heroes has grown to include Holiday Celebrations, Care Packages Delivery, and Holiday Meals for Service Members in the Pacific, Southwest Asia, Europe and the United States.
In Korea, the USO has kicked-off this Holiday Season with traditional Thanksgiving luncheons offered by our five Centers on Camp Casey, USAG Humphreys, Osan Air Base and USO Walker, and will continue spreading Holiday Cheer to our Troops and Families until New Year’s Eve. At each USO Center, patrons can find programs tailored to the needs of the local community, with a total of over 25 programs available at 17 different locations throughout the Peninsula. Events range from Free Holiday Cards back home to children’s parties, to special Holiday meals, and New Year’s Eve celebrations.
One thing that makes Korea a unique theatre for the USO is the existence of several camps and bases dispersed around the peninsula, including training ranges and locations far away from urban centers and permanent military installations, which do not have access to USO Centers. To reach these remote locations, the USO goes mobile and plans to deliver over 1,400 Holidays For Heroes Care Packages and serve Holiday Meals to Service Members at 12 Outreach locations from the DMZ to Mujuk. The Care Packages are filled with snacks, a holiday t-shirt, toiletry, earbuds and a warm beanie, which will help Service Members stay warm during the harsh Korean winter!
Needless to say, spending the Holidays far from friends and family is tough, but the USO continues to follow our Troops wherever they go, touching the lives of tens of thousands of Service Members and Military Families in Korea every year. Thanks largely to a Team of over 30,000 outstanding Volunteers, for which we are thankful every day, we work with military communities to develop programs and offer services that meet their needs and always by our Soldiers’ side.
For information about Holiday Events near you and opportunities to serve as a Volunteer with the USO, stop by the USO Center near you or contact USO Korea at DSN 755-3832.