Volunteer Stories

Sent September 24, 2011
I was asked to write a paragraph on why I volunteer at the USO and my first thought was, this is easy, to give back to the service members and their families, but it is a whole lot more than that. I began volunteering when a friend of mine suggested I volunteer at the USO. With both of our children and grandchildren gone, I found that I had lots of free time on my hands. I took the orientation on a Tuesday and started to volunteer on that Thursday and have never looked back. There is a real sense of pride when you hear a new graduate boast about how well he fired his weapon, or scored the highest on a PT test, or just to see how excited they are to put their training to the test. Seeing a young Soldier proudly wearing their dress uniform, the first real suit many of them have ever owned, makes you happy to help give back in some small way. Parents of newly graduating Soldiers often wander in and speak about how proud they are of their son or daughter and how the Army has helped to make them into the man or women they always hoped they would become. I had one parent tell me that the only thing their son used to throw were tantrums, but now he brags that he can throw grenades farther than anyone else. The USO, in my opinion, has come a long way from “just serving donuts”-they are a whole lot more. Although we still serve donuts and snacks, we are also a “home away from home” for service members. They know that they can come in on the weekends and just hang out, or if they need a shoulder to lean on or an ear to listen while they vent, the USO is the place for them to be. I feel that the USO truly cares about service members and their families. I have been a proud volunteer since 2006 and have been both honored and humbled to support our service members and their families.

Sent August 4, 2011
I served in the Army from Feb. 1966 to Oct. 1986. This was at a time when the conflict going on, Vietnam, was not popular with the public. I was cursed at and spit on several times while returning from overseas assignments. I want today’s Soldiers to feel wanted and appreciated for the job they do, protecting our country.

It is my privilege and my duty to show these Soldiers the kindness and respect they deserve.

Sent August 3, 2011
I was raised an Army “brat” who happened to really enjoy all the changes of scenery and new friends I met along life’s roads as we moved around while I grew up. I married an Air Force Airman whom I convinced to leave the military. Somehow along the way our sons decided that being a part of the military would be a good thing. So, I’m happy to report that we have two military sons currently serving; one in the Air Force, the other in the Navy. I have a proud military base that continues today. When our youngest son went to Iraq two years ago, I really felt like I wanted to do more than just send him care packages and at about that time Marge Scott visited our VFW Auxiliary one evening and asked for gals to help volunteer at the USO. I thought about our son away serving for our country and felt led to serve too. I know my tasks here at the USO can’t even compare to his tasks while in Iraq, but it has felt good to do something for our soldiers. I truly enjoy visiting with each and every soldier that comes by while I’m at the USO plus meeting their parents is an added plus for me. Ft. Wood is blessed to have such a nice USO and I feel blessed to be a part of what happens here for our soldiers.

Sent July 28, 2011
Being an Army Family we know the sacrifices that are often made to serve our great country. It’s easy to get caught up in ourselves when things get a little hard or life gets a little challenging. Going through this unique lifestyle definitely brings some challenges. We have learned as a family that when we serve others we can forget about ourselves and give joy to others. We have made it part of our Family Mission Statement to provide service to our Service Members and their Families. The USO provides us the opportunity to do just that. We have had the honor of interacting with many of our Troops here at the FLW USO. Our boys have played video games and chess with many Soldiers. My husband and I have had the opportunity to talk with young Soldiers and their Families and shared our experiences with them. We receive so much more than we give. One of the blessings that we receive is the opportunity to serve alongside Veterans from many different eras. Listening to their experiences and their journey through Military life has been a treasure for us and one we are grateful for. I served in the Army for over 11 years. It was a hard decision to hang up that uniform I wore so proudly. I quickly made the decision that if I no longer wore the uniform I would serve those who do and their families. I feel lucky that my Family feels the same way. We are proud to serve our community and our country by serving at the FLW USO.

Sent February 6, 2011
I am a proud USO volunteer. I wanted to give back something that was given to me and my family many years ago. We were new to Ft. Riley, KS with no place to go and very little money. We found the USO at Junction City and were made to feel at home right away. the USO was our home away from our little apartment. We enjoyed pot lucks, birthday parties, and Christmas parties. We had some wonderful times there. Today, after all these years, I am more than willing to volunteer to help the USO. I appreciate the help they gave my family and me so long ago. Thank you USO for being here for our young soldiers.
~Arthur E. Stone

Sent January 27, 2011
I am a veteran and really appreciate the sacrifices and professionalism of our military personnel. I volunteer to help them, yet in so many ways they uplift me and instill in me a pride and admiration for their dedication to our country.

There have been many moments that have been very rewarding since I have been volunteering at the USO. Some have been so strong that I had tears flowing down my cheeks. Almost every day I am at the USO I receive much more than I give. The politeness and gratitude of the personnel in itself is rewarding to observe, yet in some small ways I receive more, even in small ways.

Last week I was at the front desk checking the ID’s as people entered. We were busy and had a full room. Many of the people were new recruits waiting for the buses to take them to Fort Leonard Wood for basic training. The emotions of the new recruits run the gamut of self assuredness to being scared as they are away from home for the first time. I noticed a typical clean cut recruit pacing in front of the desk. When it calmed down, I asked the recruit if everything was OK. He said, “I am so nervous I drank a whole bottle of Pepto Bismo.” We started a conversastion. I asked how long he had to serve. He replied, “Three years and 17 weeks.” I told him I had served three years and it was one of the most rewarding periods of my life. I said it taught me how to follow, how to lead, and how to be a better parent. I told him everyone gets something different out of the experience, but in my memory the vast majority of veterans I have talked to say that they would never trade the experience. We talked a little longer and then more people came in and he went to get something to eat.

I did not see him for about a half an hour, until the recruits were told to get their baggage and head out the door for the busses. As they went past the desk, I thanked them for their service and he came by and stopped, looked me in the eye, smiled, shook my hand and said, “Thank You.” I may have made a little difference in his life; he certainly made a difference in mine.

Sent June 28, 2010
I was working one afternoon when a young man approached the desk . He smiled from the doorway to the desk, and there was even a broader smile while he filled out the sign-in sheet. As he wrote, he said that the last time that he’d been into the STL USO was in 2005. I told him that we’d had some significant physical changes to the facility, and that I hoped that he would enjoy his stay. I also asked why it had taken him so long to come back to visit us! His response, as closely as I can remember it, was:

“It (his last visit) was the same day of the week last time, and even about this same time of day…you were right here..and, you were nice… it was the day before I left for Iraq.
I remember almost everything about that day.”

I told him how much I appreciated his remembering me…that I was especially glad that I was nice to him, and I apologized for not being able to specifically remember him. I also said how happy we all were that he’d come home safely. We talked a moment about where he was stationed now, and he was still grinning. He only stayed a short while, and seemed to enjoy looking around and “remembering”.

At first, I just thought, how sweet! At home, it hit me…I’ve greeted thousands of people from the USO front desk…I’ve also checked their luggage, and I’ve served them food. Sometimes we’ve been so busy that I’ve hardly had time to look up or pass a word with a guest. Sometimes, I’ve been distracted, or upset about something else going on, or tired…or I’ve said “the standard words” like, “May I please see your military ID”, so many times that the delivery is flat, or automatic. I do try to greet our guests with enthusiasm, but I’m sure that it doesn’t always come across that way, or that my distractions show. I answer questions and give information with more or less patience on any given day.

‘Any given day’, however, could be a “memorable” day for our guests. It could be the day that defines us as an organization in the mind of a young man or woman who is going off to war, or seeing his child for the first time…or coming home to bury a relative…or more commonly, just the day that a flight to somewhere was made less confusing to a young man or woman. It could be the day that we offered the only kind or helpful words heard by someone.

I needed to be reminded to remember not to see just a group of Marines or sailors or soldiers, but the possible impression on each one…and that the USO (and I) may be a memorable part of their lives. Maybe most of us need to be reminded..
Sent November 5, 2009

As a veteran and a volunteer at the USO of Missouri, I can attest to the magnificence of character and the quality of service men and women in our Armed Forces. They are polite, wonderful “kids next door.” If more American could see the unwavering dedication to our county and our ideals, they would burst with pride…..as I do.

Their sacrifice is noble and sometimes difficult. I will never forget when a 5-year old came in with her mother looking for her Dad who was returning from 1 year of duty in Iraq. They saw him through a window while using one of the cyber computers. They decided to sneak up on him and surprise him. As they rounded the corner, he turned and saw them. As soon as their eyes met, the little girl loudly screamed “Daddy!!” and flew into his arms. After a few minutes, they came out of the cyber cafe. He was holding her in his arms and she had her arms wrapped around his neck. They went to get his luggage and she wouldn’t let go of his neck. Tears were running down my cheeks!

Sent October 8, 2009
It is early Saturday evening, fall cold and blustery.

Three USO volunteers were headed home, after completing two days of serving our Air Force families at Whiteman AFB in Knob Knoster, MO.

We were all tired after putting in a long hard day, but very satisfied that we had made several hundred members of the Air Force understand that we appreciate their service.

About 2 1/2 hours after leaving Whiteman, the USO mobile unit driver made a strategic decision to pull over at a rest stop, so that we could “stretch our legs.”

As we exited the vehicle and started walking to the leg stretching building, a 16 wheeler pulled up near the USO van and trailer. The driver hoped out and came walking toward us quickly.

With a big smile, this “knight of the road,” came up to each of the volunteers, patted us on the back and deeply thanked us for helping him and his family while he was in the Navy.

We were not looking for thanks, and honestly were embarrassed by the praise this Navy man turned road knight gave us.

As we pulled out of the rest stop, the three of us knew why we volunteered, and why we will continue to help our troops. They need and appreciate every thing we do for them.

Sent September 22, 2009

  • Assisting a parent who tearfully says goodbye to a son or daughter as he/she leaves Lambert to serve this great nation of ours….
  • Listening to the eager words of a family awaiting the arrival of their loved one who is returning home from duty in the US armed forces…
  • Talking with the young recruits, experiencing with them as they share their fears, concerns, excitement looking to their future as it is unfolding before them…
  • Looking into the eyes of the commanding officers who come in and out of Lambert and seeing the true caring spirit in their eyes and in their words for those in their command…
  • Meeting young and middle age military personnel and veterans and listening to their experiences, goals and their own personal stories that they wish to share…

There are so many reasons why I volunteer that for me can only be summed up as a huge THANK YOU for all military and an opportunity to support them and their families.

  • When can giving a chili cheese hot dog bring a smile to someone’s face? At the USO.
  • When can dispensing an aspirin to a young recruit who has a stomachache or headache due to nerves bring a sense of relief? At the USO
  • When can you say “Thank you for your Service” to so many AND hear a response back, “no mam, we thank you”? At the USO
  • When can you help a military personnel by offering a phone to call his family, a pillow and bed to lay his/her weary body, by finding transportation to help in his travels, by filling his/her stomach with warm nourishment or a cool drink on a hot day, and offering a guitar to strum or a book/magazine to read? At the USO
  • When can you offer a weary, stressed mother a quiet nursery away from the noise to calm her fussy child? At the USO

My blood runs red, white and blue and I am so proud to be able to serve our military personnel in this way. I also take great joy is doing it side by side with my fellow USO friends and fellow volunteers as we share a special bond and a common goal. My family history, like so many of us have members who have served through the years and in whom we hold such pride. From the Revolutionary War to a young granddaughter who is an Airman of today, our lives are all entwined with the past as we say thank you and move to the future.

No matter how much we say “thank you”, the thank yous are returned many times over to us. I can never get over the fact that we are doing for them, serving them, and yet they are thanking us!

I have the privilege of joining Santa Claus as his “Mrs.” Claus each December at Santa’s Express and Exodus. I could share so many experiences of both of these events that have left a lasting mark on my heart. Like the little girl of age 2 who was sitting on my lap clutching a stuffed doll with her Daddy’s photo on it….he was deployed at the time. Or the grandparents who have their grandchildren with them for the party while the parents are serving our military. At Exoduc, you can only imagine the excitement as these young men nd women share the holiday spirit on their way home for Christmas and I see the warm look in the eyes of their commanding officer standing at a distance taking it all in too. One very memorable occasion was at Exodus when Santa and I literally had 14 young military personnel sittong on our laps, standing behind us or sitting at our feet for a photo. After everyone left, a very young US Serviceman came back to me and planted a kiss firmly on my cheek and whispered…”Thank You Mrs. Claus….Merry Christmas!” THAT IS WHY I VOLUNTEER!!

Sent September 22, 2009
I left home early one morning for boot camp. I was 17 years old. I am from a small Midwestern town. I sort of knew what to expect, but until you actually live it, you can’t understand. I said goodbye to my Mom, Dad and family dog, all of which are gone now.

They were to train me for war. War is not pleasant and the training is meant to sustain you in that unpleasant time. I found myself in the midst of strangers who had come to serve like me. We became close in our ordeals, to the point that we learned we would survive only by depending on each other. Not knowing, or realizing, at the time, my life had changed forever. I had become one of them and they were one with me. At that young age it is so ingrained that the feeling never leaves you. I am 70 years old and, to this day, I belong with them. I will always belong with them. They will never let me down and I will never let them down. The USO of Missouri provides me a way to be with them again and to give to them as they give to me.

Sent September 21, 2009
One of the most frequent questions I am asked by the troops is “Why do you volunteer for us?”

Saturday afternoon provided the strongest answer to that question and could be a key point in our on-going mission.

I was returning to the facility about 3 PM, when I noticed two senior Army NCOs talking softly and caringly to a distressed young woman clutching the “folded flag of honor given by our Nation,” the banner given in the name of the President of the United States to the family of fallen warriors.

I approached one of the NCOs and quietly asked him if we could help the young lady or the NCOs.

The story that unfolded was that the young woman was returning from her husband’s funeral and was awarded the flag in his memory. She was upset because the flag was not folded properly and she did not know what to do. The flag of our Nation meant that much to the widow.

The two NCOs were returning to Ft. Leonard Wood from another funeral in Georgia and they offered to refold the flag but were reticent to do so in the middle of the airport.

I escorted the group into our luggage room and assembled an informal group to honor her while the NCOs, with the greatest of respect, refolded the banner of honor awarded on behalf of her fallen husband. The volunteer and a couple of troops stood, with bowed heads, out of respect for the slain hero.

I did not know, but the flag holds 3 spent rounds fired by the honor guard at the funeral.

The NCOs did their task with pride and dignity. The widow was grateful for the help offered her. I wish I knew the NCOs names, since their actions should be formally commended.

If anyone ever wants to know why I will volunteer until the day I die, that demonstration of pride and respect by our troops for a fallen comrade answers that question. That simple act of dignity and honor has impacted me far more than you could know. I have been upset all weekend. As I write this note to you, I am still choking up, praying for the safe return of each of the young troops who come into our USO.

Thank you for the opportunity to serve.