My guest today is my friend Michael Ann Rentz who is a career Air Force wife and USO volunteer. Earlier this year she was telling me about her experience with the USO so I asked her to write a little piece for Veteran’s Day. She doesn’t yet have a blog but I’m hoping she will soon. Thank you for sharing, Michael Ann, and thanks so much to your family for serving our country.
What comes to mind when you think of the USO? World War II movies in which soldiers and sailors on leave go to the USO canteen to dance with girls? Bob Hope USO tours? For me the word “safety” comes to mind.
My husband served in the US Air Force for 27 years, and for about half that time we were blessed to be stationed in Europe. The good side of that was that we were living in Europe and seeing amazing places! Another aspect was that we had to be mindful of security issues, being watchful and keeping a low profile, especially when traveling.
One place we could always relax and let our guard down was in the USO! Whether it was in Europe or stateside, once we walked into a USO we could breathe deep, put our bags down, and just relax. We were safe. And the people behind the desk always welcomed us with big smiles and plenty of snacks! They provided access to computers with internet (this was pre cellular data!), provided information on the local area, and did I mention the free snacks?!? I vowed that one day I wanted to be the smiling person behind the desk.
And now I am! After my husband retired from the Air Force and we moved to Savannah, Georgia, I contacted our local USO and applied to be a volunteer. I’ve worked at the Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport USO for a year now, and I just love it!
We have a small lounge area where military families can rest and regroup before or after a flight. Thanks to our generous supporters we have lots of snacks and sodas for them, and we can help provide just about any travel item they may need from a toothbrush or deodorant to sewing kits or calling cards. We can also help them coordinate transportation to local bases or hook them up with a good book to read on their flight.
Just tonight I visited with a National Guard officer whose family was flying in for a visit. He was able to chill out and watch some television while he waited. I meet Marine recruits who are on their way to Parris Island for bootcamp, and celebrate with families who’ve attended the graduation of those new Marines as they travel through our airport on their way home. It’s always a pleasure to serve them!
The USO’s mission is to lift the spirit of America’s troops and their families. It’s a blessing to pay forward the kindness that the USO has shown to my family!