The lingering image of USOs that many of us have in our minds is the one that was shaped for us in black-and-white by Hollywood, or perhaps the lingering color images of USO-sponsored entertainment tours that dodged un-friendly fire and made the evening news regularly in the 1970s.
The United Service Operations celebrates its 65th year this year and is more than the "donut dollies" our fathers and grandfathers remember during World War II...when a pretty face and a cup of coffee meant more than any of us can imagine.
In 1941, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt determined it would be best if private organizations handled the on-leave recreation of the rapidly-growing U.S. armed forces. Roosevelt's call to action led six civilian agencies to coordinate their civilian war efforts and resources to form a new organization — the USO. The six civilian agencies were the Salvation Army, Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA), Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA), National Catholic Community Services, National Travelers Aid Association and the National Jewish Welfare Board.
The USO is a private, nonprofit organization, supported entirely by private citizens and not part of the U.S. government.
Since 1941, during times of peace, the USO's role has sometimes shifted gears, its peace-time value has even been challenged. However, if there is one sure thing it is that — unless you're Switzerland — there will always be recurring international conflicts and there will always be a need for the USO.
The entertainment industry that is sometimes so reviled by the political Right knows this. Impressively, it has been supportive and involved with the USO all along. They still are today.
Recent USO tours have featured entertainers such as Wayne Newton, Robin Williams, Drew Carey, Bruce Willis, Gary Sinise, Ben Affleck, James Avery, Kid Rock, Henry Rollins, Howie Long, Montgomery Gentry, Terry Bradshaw, Rascal Flatts, David Letterman, and "The Sopranos" stars James Gandolfini and Tony Sirico.
Domestic shows were added to the longstanding international tour list, featuring Sugar Ray Leonard, Emeril, "JAG" stars Karri Turner and John Jackson, and Rachel Proctor. Longtime USO entertainers, such as the Dallas Cowboys' Cheerleaders and Joan Jett, continue to donate their time and talents to entertain the troops.
Kid Rock, Emeril and David Letterman... God bless America.
Today, more than 10 years after it closed its doors on Guam, the Service Organization returns. With the help of volunteers and businesses — including the Guam Hotel and Restaurant Association and the Royal Orchid Guam Hotel — the new USO facilities in the Royal Orchid open today to military service members and their guests, 626 Pale San Vitores Rd., Tumon, Guam, 671.649.2000.