FORT HOOD, Texas - More than 300 people gathered at the Fort Hood United Service Organizations for their Back-to-School Birthday Bash celebrating 21 years of USO Fort Hood and kids returning to school.
“Officially, the birthday is the 10th of August, but we celebrate the Saturday before, in conjunction with the kids going back to school, so that they can celebrate with us,” said Ben Griffin, center operations and programs manager for USO Fort Hood. “It’s just a way for us to say thank you to the service members and families in our community… by sharing our birthday with them.”
This year, the party had a carnival-like theme. Children were given tickets that they filled with stamps from the many different game stations. They then could redeem that stamp-filled ticket for prizes including tiaras and inflatable swords. There were also sweet treats galore and fun music playing as a background to all the laughter.
Griffin said he enjoyed seeing the kids’ smiles the most while hosting the event.
“They’re there waiting in line to come out there to have fun on a weekend right before school starts. Just having them here – the laughter and smiles that they have on their faces that is totally the best part,” he said.
Spouse Katelyn Miller said she and her two children wanted to come out and have some fun while their father is currently deployed.
She said the USO is very important to their family providing fun opportunities to them overseas.
“We just actually got back from three years overseas and the USO did a lot of fun things for us over there that we didn’t really have opportunity, especially with COVID and everything,” she said. “We have always been a huge supporter of the USO because they’ve always been such a huge supporter of Soldiers and the spouses and their children.”
This impact is important to those who represent the USO, including Griffin.
“There’s nothing that I do that is going to save a life or hold anything in the balance of something bad. We provide the magic… to make people feel at home. That’s what it’s all about,” Griffin said. “My favorite part is just simply coming into work every day knowing that we’re going to make someone’s life maybe a little easier, comfort them a little bit more and provide them with an opportunity, an event, a program for them to feel more connected to their family, home and country.”
In addition to the staff at USO Fort Hood, there were several volunteers that made the Back-to-School Birthday Bash a success and Griffin is incredibly thankful to them.
“A huge thank you to our volunteers for spending their time supporting our community as they do,” he said. “They are truly ambassadors of the USO in every way and we could not be more proud of them and we’re so thankful that we have them.”
Griffin also said if anyone would like to be a volunteer at USO Fort Hood, they can come to the orientation that is held on both the second and fourth Tuesday of each month at 6:00 p.m. Those who attend should be prepared to spend about an hour at orientation.
“We’ve been here for 21 years, and we hope to be here much, much longer,” Griffin said. “Everything we do is to support our active-duty service members and their families and make them feel comforted and at home in the best way that we can. Hopefully, we do provide that for them.”