‘Until Every One Comes Home:’ local USO volunteers show support

9 Sep 2005 | Cpl. K. A. Thompson

“…and so, the USO will carry on. Wherever and whenever they go, until every brow is soothed and every hand is held. Until every song is sung and every battle won. Until every one comes home.”-USO Public Service AnnouncementFor 64 years the United Service Organization has been “the bridge between the American Public and the U.S. military.” With the help of more than 33,571 volunteers, the USO operates in 10 countries and 21 states. From Iraq to Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, USO volunteers provide an estimated 450,000 hours of service per year, according to www.uso.org.“The mission of the USO is to promote the morale and the welfare of the men and women who make up the Armed Forces,” said Philip Malmstedt, the USO volunteer coordinator for Beaufort County. The Beaufort County group, which is comprised entirely of volunteers who offer their services to military members at Hunter Army Airfield, Fort Stewart and the USO Welcome Center at the Savannah International Airport. However, their main focus is the Air Station, according to Malmstedt.“We are an enthusiastic and committed group of people who are proud to be guests at the (Air Station) whenever we are invited to a deployment or a homecoming,” Malmstedt said. “Because the United States is fighting a global war on terrorism, the Air Station is in the front line. Deployment to Iraq or Japan is an ongoing operation for the Marines and Sailors stationed in Beaufort. The USO is pleased to play a small role in recognizing these brave folks and the role they play in protecting our freedoms.”From sending care packages to providing cold beverages at homecomings, the Beaufort County volunteers put in long hours because they truly care about the welfare of service members and their families, according to Paul Young, a co-coordinator for the Beaufort County USO and a safety specialist for the Air Station Safety Department. “Our troops deploy to Iraq and other hostile environments … and usually we have a squadron onboard an aircraft carrier,” Young said. “These men and women deserve to see and receive local support and from us that’s a cold drink, a snack, a goody bag, a smile, a hug, a hand shake or encouraging words.”Volunteering for the USO is a way of showing support for the Tri-Command’s military personnel, but for Young there is also a personal tie that keeps him motivated.“My oldest son is a staff sergeant with (Marine Fighter Attack Squadron) 251, so he deploys,” Young said. “And I would hope that someone like me and the other volunteers is where he’s at to take care of him.”Along with supporting individual Marines and Sailors, the USO volunteers are also dedicated to serving military families, according to Malmstedt.“My wife Susan and I get as much enjoyment seeing the families …,” Malmstedt said. “The wives and children seem pleased to see the USO at the squadron hanger.”When Marine All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 224 returned from Iraq Aug. 7, the USO volunteer’s presence meant a great deal to more than 600 Bengals’ family members, according to Katie Thomas, wife of Lt. Col. Wilbert Thomas, the squadron’s commanding officer.“Their willingness to come out and show support really contributed to a great homecoming for us,” Thomas said. “It’s nice to see people that genuinely care about the sacrifices our Marines and families are making. They understand what the mission is here … not just for this particular deployment, but for any service member and their families.”The USO is a congressionally chartered, private, nonprofit organization conceived in 1941 in a response to a mandate from President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The USO provides a variety of services such as phone cards, libraries, cyber cafes, cultural orientation and Internet access. Entertainers on USO tours include Robin Williams, Drew Carey, David Letterman and the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders. For more information about the USO visit www.uso.org, and for more information on how to volunteer locally call Malmstedt at 757-2415 or Young at 228-6939.