By Amy PerryJanuary 13, 2011
FORT LEE, Va. (Jan. 13, 2011) -- The USO of Hampton Roads and Central Virginia cut the ribbon to its new location on Fort Lee Tuesday.
The Fort Lee site marks the 11th center in the USOHRCV area. The centers provide a home away from home environment for service members.
Col. Michael G. Morrow, U.S. Army Garrison, Fort Lee commander, Maureen McDonnell, first lady of Virginia, and Ellen Malloy, USOHRCV chairperson, were all on hand to open the new facility.
Bruce LaLonde, USOHRCV president and chief executive officer, thanked everyone for attending and said he appreciated the support USO has received from Fort Lee and the surrounding communities.
"By joining us and providing your support, you are helping us accomplish our mission of enhancing the quality of life of U.S. Armed Forces personnel and their families and creating a cooperative relationship between military communities and their supporting civilian communities," LaLonde said.
The USO was created 70 years ago, said Malloy, who followed LaLonde at the podium during the ceremony.
"In 1941, Franklin Roosevelt brought together six charities to create the United Service Organization," she said. "The mission was simple - to enhance the quality of life for the military and their families. Here, in 2011, 70 years (later) it's still the same. We do exactly what we did before - we do it simply and the goal has never changed. It's to enhance the quality life.
"This (new location) is a beautiful facility," she continued, "and it's here for one reason - it's here for you."
Malloy introduced Morrow, and he said the idea for a USO on Fort Lee was thought of a few years ago in preparation for the increase in students here.
"It's a great day for our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines, as well as our family members and civilians," he said. "This USO is a testament to the service and support Fort Lee receives from civic leaders, community leaders, community members and organizations outside our gate. We have a lot of great folks who support us and do a lot of great things for us."
Morrow thanked the community for its support in making this USO a reality.
"At Fort Lee, we have always considered ourselves fortunate to be located in a community that clearly demonstrates support of the service members here and the sacrifices they make," he said. "Fort Lee really benefits from their efforts."
After giving his appreciation to the local community, Morrow introduced the keynote speaker, McDonnell.
Bringing recognition to the USO is important to her family, said McDonnell.
"I've been a military daughter, a military mom and a military wife," she said. "I know how difficult it is, firsthand, on the families to watch your loved ones leave home to serve abroad. I know how important it is for our troops to have reminders of home so in some small way, they can stay connected. The USO does just that. It is there for our troops, providing that important connection to home and family and reminding them that others care and appreciate the sacrifice they are making for all of us."
McDonnell said the USO has a special place in her and her husband's hearts as their daughter deployed to Iraq in 2005 as a Signal Corps officer.
"It was the USO that helped make Janine feel as if she wasn't so far from her family that Christmas," she said. "The services they provided helped her time there feel a lot shorter."
McDonnell also presented the USOHRCV with a check for $5,000 from the Governor's Inaugural Fund.
The center's hours of operation are Tuesdays - Thursdays, 10 a.m. - 6 p.m.; Fridays - Saturdays, 11 a.m. - 10 p.m., and Sunday, noon - 6 p.m. On Fridays after 5 p.m. and on weekends, the USO is reserved for advanced individual training students. For more information, call (804) 765-3045.
Individuals interested in volunteering, at the new center may call Kasinda Thomas, its director, at (804) 564-2233 or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.