By Spc. Noelle WieheFebruary 1, 2018
FORT STEWART - The United Service Organizations, known to servicemembers and their Families as the USO, cut the ribbon Feb. 1, symbolizing the grand opening of their new facility on Fort Stewart, Georgia, to provide service to Soldiers and Families.
The new 14,000 square-foot facility, located behind the Popeye's on Gulick Avenue on main post, features seven televisions, a projection screen, foosball, pool tables, an Xfinity game room, wireless internet capabilities, computers available for use and donated refreshments for visitors.
"We're gathered here today to celebrate the continued commitment of the USO to our Families," said Col. Jason Wolter, garrison commander. "I can think of no greater symbol of this commitment than this beautifully renovated building and this club for our dog-face Soldiers, especially as (3rd Infantry Division) celebrated our 100th birthday this year."
Regina Wages, FSGA USO Director, said the USO, with the new facility, offers several volunteer opportunities for Soldiers, Family programs - Stronger Families, Impact Programs - as well as the new Pathfinder Transition Services Program, designed to help Soldiers transitioning back into civilian life.
"To all of you who are active duty, you are the reason our volunteers volunteer," said Susan Cahoon, USO Georgia Board Chair.
USOs were established prior to the onset of America's involvement in World War II in 1941 by Franklin D. Roosevelt to unite several service associations into one organization to lift the morale of our military and nourish support on the home front.
There are now about 180 USOs - reaching nearly every continent - around the world, operated by volunteers like Pat Horvath who has been with the USO for 20 years.
"I am biased, but I will tell you, there is not a finer establishment across those 180 than you are standing in here today," Wolter said. "It is truly amazing."
Horvath volunteers at the USO in the Atlanta airport. She said her husband, Jack, is a veteran, having served in the U.S. Army.
"We saw one USO in about 25 years, and that was in New York in 1963," Horvath said, noting she was directed to the USO to be able to get show tickets at a reasonable price.
She said she began volunteering after reading an article in her local newspaper which said that the USO needed volunteers to donate turkeys around Thanksgiving. She and her husband bought the turkey, cooked it and took it the USO.
"We just liked what we saw, and we realized how important it is for the Soldiers and their Families to have a safe place to be in the airport, so we decided to volunteer," Horvath said. "It is just such a pleasure - the people are nice and they need to have someone from home to welcome them and to see them as they were taking off. We're kind of their Family when they're Family isn't there or can't be there."
The USO strengthens America's military servicemembers by keeping them connected to Family, home and country throughout their service to the nation, said Dr. J.D. Crouch, II, USO chief executive officer and president. From the moment they join, through their assignments and deployments and as they transition back to their communities, the USO is always by their side.
The USO is a commercially chartered, private organization which is not a part of the federal government, but instead funded by the generosity of individuals, organizations and corporations. The USO is powered by a family of volunteers and employees to accomplish the USO's mission of connection.
"Especially for us - we're stationed in North Carolina - we don't really know what there is to do on this base," said U.S. Marine Sgt. Jacob Quickel, 2nd Maintenance Battalion at Camp Lejeune Marine Corps Base, North Carolina. "The USO is always a friendly place to go and hang out."
The grand opening event featured snacks, drinks, entertainment, a catered barbecue lunch from Texas Roadhouse, a raffle drawing and remarks from several 3rd ID leaders and USO representatives.
"Not only are we cutting a ribbon on this magnificent new establishment to serve our Soldiers and Families, but in doing so, we are demonstrating a renewed commitment for a vital 70-year plus partnership with the USO and hopefully helping you fulfill your mission of keeping our Soldiers and Families connected wherever they may be throughout the world - always by the side of the Soldier," Wolter said.