USO 60th Anniversary Spotlights Troops
By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 6, 2001 The night was dedicated to the United Service Organizations, but the true stars of the evening were America's men and women in uniform.
About 800 guests attended the USO 60th Anniversary Gala at the Washington Hilton here Feb. 4, 2001, to pay tribute to both the USO and the troops they serve. Four large video screens set up in the ballroom displayed images of service members doing their jobs around the world.
Army Medal of Honor recipient Al Rascon and his wife Carol (right), talk with singer-songwriter Carole King at the USO 60th Anniversary Gala, Feb. 4, 2001, in Washington, D.C. Photo by Linda D. Kozaryn.
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Nearly 12,000 USO volunteers, assisted by a small paid staff, provide programs and services to service members and their families in the United States and overseas "in places that some of us can't find on a map," said John H. Tilelli Jr., USO president and chief executive officer.
"When we talk about our armed forces, we're not talking about generals and colonels," he said. "We're talking about the young soldier, sailor, airman and Marine -- the 19- to 24-year-old who's in a faraway place trying to figure out how to get where he or she is going."
Since its inception, the USO has sent celebrity entertainers "to deliver that special touch of home to our deployed forces," Tilelli said. "This summer we tried something new and sent entertainers to visit our troops who were firefighting in the West."
Noting that legendary USO showman Bob Hope no longer tours, Tilelli read a note the 97-year-old comedian had sent to mark the occasion.
"Dear John," Hope wrote, "I can't believe it's been 60 years since the USO introduced me to box lunches and Kaopectate."
The American men and women in uniform "who serve their country with great character and courage" are "the greatest audience in the world. Just being in their company has been the greatest of honors," Hope stated.
Hope thanked the USO for helping him create such fond memories. "Please extend my admiration to your volunteers and especially to all the entertainers who now dedicate their time and talent to the cause," he said.
Tilelli awarded the USO Freedom Award to Navy Chief Petty Officer Clifford A. "Doc" Moser, a hospital corpsman on the USS Cole when it was attacked by terrorists in Yemen.
He also named the USO's service member of the year for each military branch: Army Staff Sgt. Albert F. Dimitro Jr. of Fort Chaffee, Ark.; Navy Petty Officer 1st class Kenneth Tuliau of the cruiser USS Lake Champlain; Tech. Sgt. Charles L. Fouch III of Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas; Sgt. David A. Oswell of Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C.; and Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd class Noel G. Hutton of Sitka Air Station, Alaska. (See related AFPS news articles "USO Honors Military Heroes" and "USO Supports Troops, America Supports USO.")
The USO also presented its highest award, The Spirit of Bob Hope, to the United Service Automobile Association, a Texas- based financial services company and corporate USO sponsor. Accepting the award was USAA President and Chief Executive Officer Robert G. Davis, a decorated combat veteran who led 685 combat missions in Vietnam from 1969 to 1970.
The USO award cited the company for its long-time support and substantial financial and in-kind contributions.
Tilelli also presented a Hope award to Helga Haub, a long- standing USO volunteer. Haub currently serves as president of the USO Council of Rhein-Main Area and in Weisbaden, Germany.
More than 40 years ago, when Haub arrived in the United States with her husband, she spoke no English and felt alone. She said the warmth and generosity she received from the American people helped her feel at home and left a lasting impression.
Returning to Germany in the late 1970s, Haub saw that U.S. service members and their families faced similar problems when they arrived overseas. She volunteered to work with the USO as a way to return the friendship and hospitality she had received during her stay in the United States.
Haub became a member of the USO Worldwide Board of Governors in 1980. Governors and council members receive no compensation or reimbursement for transportation and lodging expenses incurred as a result of their USO responsibilities.
Over the past 20 years, Haub's support of galas, golf tournaments, concerts and special events have generated more than $2 million to support local and international USO programs. She has also arranged for hundreds of thousands of donated in-kind goods and services for U.S. armed forces and their families in Germany.
Game show host Alex Trebek served as master of ceremonies for the evening's award ceremonies and entertainment. Pop icon Carole King headlined the show, which also included performances by Ruth Pointer, country music newcomer Craig Morgan, and the Oak Ridge Boys.
"I'm very grateful that we have the men and women to protect our country, and I'm very grateful that we have the USO to look after them so well," said King, who recently entertained troops in Italy, Bosnia and Kosovo. "And I'm really grateful that we have you to support the USO," she told the gala guests.