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What is the USO?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
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  • Last Modified Date: 01 November 2016
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The United Service Organizations (USO) is a non-profit, Congressionally chartered agency which offers support services to American military personnel and their families. Although the USO is most well known for its celebrity entertainment tours, it actually offers a great deal of other vitally needed services to troops during times of both war and peace. The organization is supported almost entirely through grants and donations of time and money. People who are interested in contributing to the efforts of the USO either within the United States or abroad can use their favorite search engine to look for a local chapter of the organization.

In 1941, the USO was founded in response to a request by President Franklin D. Roosevelt asking for more support services for American troops. With war looming on the horizon, the President wanted to make sure that troops got a small “touch of home” wherever they were. Participation in the USO also helped to bridge the gap between civilians and the military. After the close of the war, the USO started to become defunct, but it was revived as the Korean war began, and it continues to thrive.

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One of the major services of the USO is USO centers. There are over 130 such centers worldwide, along with an assortment of mobile centers which are moved as needed for troops. At a USO center, members of the military and their families have access to the Internet, reading rooms, library staff, game rooms, counseling, housing assistance, and other services designed to provide comfort and support. Many of the staff at these centers are volunteers who donate their time and energy.

The USO also engages in a number of rotating missions. For example, the organization often collects mail from American citizens to be sent to troops serving overseas. The USO also has airport welcome centers and parties for returning troops, and attempts to provide phone services and other lines of communication for soldiers serving far from home.

The celebrity entertainment shows for which the USO is famous are performed all over the world, including within the United States. These shows are intended to elevate general troop morale, and the celebrities who participate in them generally volunteer to do so, although the USO also actively solicits celebrities. Comics, musicians, and other entertainers from home can help to make troops feel less isolated in the field.

Many members of the armed services both past and present speak very highly of the USO. The work of the organization supports men and women who are often engaged in challenging jobs, both through providing needed services and through offering fellowship, comfort, and friendly words from home.

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