Airman’s birthday a piece of cake for Osan USO

by Juyeon Park
USO Osan

Birthdays are always special, but sometimes difficult to celebrate when we are all so far away from home. Enter the USO. For the past 77 years, the USO is a congressionally authorized organization established to support America’s service members by keeping them connected to the people, places and things they love. The USO is privately supported through corporate and individual charitable contributions. As a part of our mission to keep service members connected to family, home, and country during their service to the nation, we develop and execute various programs that serve that purpose. We especially desire to maintain the spirits of service members who are deployed or stationed overseas. “Operation Birthday Cake” is one such program that helps us do that. It is a program designed to keep service members stationed overseas connected with their family back home - especially on their very special BIRTHDAY.

Operation Birthday Cake (OBC) started in the Pacific Region in Okinawa in 2007 when a special request from a Marine mother arrived. She wanted to know if the USO could help her get a birthday cake to her son who was turning 21 and away from home for the first time. She was willing to buy the cake but needed someone to deliver it for her halfway across the world. The center manager at USO Kadena said he would be honored to help and sent her some pictures of the surprise afterwards. The mother was so happy about what had happened that she posted what the USO had done for her on a Yahoo Marine moms’ group website. The next week, USO Okinawa received 15 new requests from mothers who had sons or daughters stationed in Okinawa with upcoming birthdays. USO expanded this great program to all the USO centers in the Pacific region.

At USO Osan (in Korea), we received a request from a mother back home to deliver a birthday cake to her son, Airman First Class Austin Horsting, who works at 51st Fighter Wing Logistics on Osan Air Base. We arranged to deliver his surprise birthday cake on the same day that USO Osan was also scheduled to receive a visit from several USO celebrity entertainers that were part of the USO Spring World Tour. We decided to join the two events for a unique birthday surprise.

On the morning of the birthday surprise, Mrs. Heather Horsting, the Airman’s mother, unexpectedly flew all the way to Korea to join her son’s birthday surprise. The Airman was brought to the USO Center by his co-workers thinking only that they were coming to see the USO entertainers. As Airman Horsting walked into the USO center, all the people there, including the Vice Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff and his wife, along with USO American celebrity entertainers Jon Stewart, Craig Morgan, Robert Irvine, Max Holloway, Paige VanZant, Richard "Rip" Hamilton and the rest of the USO Tour team, as well as the members of the Airman’s unit started singing “Happy Birthday” for Airman Horsting. He seemed absolutely surprised and tried to think what is going on. Then we asked him to look at a computer screen where his family members back home were connected via an online video chat to join in their loved one’s birthday. The father asked his son to wait for a moment until his mother came to the computer screen. The biggest surprise of all occurred next. Airman Hosting’s mother Heather walked up to her son from a different side of the room in the USO center. Airman Horsting was amazed and hugged his mother very tight. We could see tears in Airman Horsting’s eyes. All the participants joined in to celebrate a very special birthday for Airman Horsting who was turning 20 years old.

We at the Osan USO wish to thank all who helped us make this very special “Operation Birthday Cake” possible. If you need someone to deliver a birthday cake to your loved one at Osan that you cannot be together with on their very special birthday or anniversary, please contact us online. Additionally, anyone interested in USO programs and services can come to their local USO Center and volunteer!

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