Volunteering with the USO by Renee Keefe

My son joined the Marines on September 11, 2017.

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After 13 grueling weeks of boot camp, he had to undertake what is called “the Crucible.” The Crucible is 54 hours of food and sleep deprivation, 45 miles of marching in the desert, and climbing to the top of a mountain to receive the EGA pin.

The marines hike back to base and graduate the next week.

Once the Crucible is over, they finally get to see their families, access emails, letters, and packages. The entire experience is mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausting, and yet, some don’t have their family members at graduation to support them.

That is where the United Services Organization (USO) comes into play.

The USO was formed to serve active military and their families on bases and in the field. Volunteers need to go through background checks, gain military access, and are not allowed at dangerous sites.

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My father was in the Navy at the end of WWII and assisted with prisoner’s of war (POW) to safety in Bikini, Atoll. He trained in Great Lakes. He taught me to always respect military personnel. My father and son’s experience with the military drove me to volunteer with the USO.

After graduating from the military, they can visit any USO and everything is free. All they need to do is sign-in and show an ID.

When volunteering with the USO, a typical Saturday morning might be picking up donations, providing bagels, pizza, hot dogs, and fruit.

Bigger events come up, too! The no-dough dinners and Luau are amazingly fulfilling for guests and volunteers.

If you are interested in volunteering, visit the USO of Illinois site to learn more.