By Maj. Cindi King, SC National Guard Public AffairsSeptember 15, 2011
FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- Service members who have deployed or traveled far from home know when they see the patriotic banner with "USO" on it, there's surely musical entertainment, food, a feel of home and appreciation nearby.
Last week, more than 400 military personnel and special guests were treated to all of these as the USO held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for its new morale center at McCrady Training Center.
"We selected McCrady for this USO center as it has thousands of service members from all branches of service pass through before they deploy to combat," said Joannie Thresher, Columbia's USO director. "We want all of our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines to know the USO deeply appreciates their sacrifices and all they do to keep us safe at home."
The project began in June when the USO arranged for the S.C. Army National Guard to deliver a sand-colored "USO in a Box" portable morale center to McCrady via sling-load under a Chinook helicopter.
Since then, the trailer was relocated to its permanent location next to one of the former dining halls on the installation. The building was renovated, redecorated and outfitted with computers, television screens, couches and other amenities. The "box" houses video games and computers for service members to use the internet and keep in touch with family and friends.
"This facility demonstrates the capability of the USO as they reach out to support. Sometimes when troops are deployed they may feel they've been forgotten," said Maj. Gen Robert E. Livingston Jr., S.C. adjutant general. "The USO, no matter where the location, provides that little bit of home."
The event included a flyover by the 169th Fighter Wing from McEntire Joint National Guard Base and musical selections from the 246th Army National Guard band.
One of the highlights during the festivities was a surprise visit by country music singer Lee Brice, a native of Sumter, who performed his hit song, "Love Like Crazy."
Brice said that when he heard about what the USO was doing for the military community near his hometown, he wanted to do whatever he could to demonstrate his appreciation and support to all service members.
"We could not have made this happen without all of our wonderful corporate sponsors, donors and hard work from community leaders," Thresher said. "When we do things for our service members, we want to do it big. And we certainly did with this effort."