FORT LEE, Va. – A sign reading “Closed Indefinitely,” posted on the door of the USO Center here Wednesday, surprised garrison leaders and the community at large.
The no-notice shuttering of the facility was not exclusive to Fort Lee. Centers were closed at other military installations, Military Entrance Processing Stations and airports across the nation in a move that, according to a statement from the USO, “ensures [operational] resources have the greatest positive impact possible.”
“The USO continually evaluates how it can best serve the needs of our service members and their families,” read an email response from Daniel Drummond, director of communications and social media for the non-profit organization. “As those needs change based on the military's evolving priorities, we similarly modify our programs and locations. We have determined several of our locations have very low traffic and have decided to redeploy those resources elsewhere in the U.S. and around the world to better serve our military.”
The USO offered its promise that regional offices will continue to support key Fort Lee activities such as Holiday Block Leave operations and deployment/redeployment ceremonies. The Richmond International Airport center will remain open.
The Fort Lee USO Center opened in January 2011. Maureen McDonnell, wife of then-Governor Bob McDonnell, participated in the ribbon-cutting ceremony. For the next decade, USO information and light refreshment booths were a fixture at community events large and small. Much of the center’s operations over the years was dependent on volunteer support from the local community.
Local supporters of the USO expressed shock and sadness over the closure. In comments on social media, an individual praised the work of the Fort Lee facility’s long-time director Kasinda Thomas, saying she deserves a “thunderous round of applause.”
“Ms. Thomas and volunteers worked countless hours, to include giving up many weekends and holidays, to keep in line with the USO’s mission of strengthening America’s military service members while keeping them connected to family, home and country,” the community member expressed on the ArmyFortLee Facebook Page. “… It is my hope that she and her team will receive a proper farewell and recognition of all she/they have done to aid readiness and boost morale for Fort Lee Soldiers and families.”
Additional USO information, including the list of troop support facilities still in operation, is available at hrcv.uso.org.