Pentagon Leaders Dedicate USO Exhibit
By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Aug. 31, 2011 Deputy Defense Secretary William J. Lynn III was joined by Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in celebrating the dedication of a USO exhibit in the Pentagon today.
Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, tours memorabilia at the dedication ceremony of the USO exhibit at the Pentagon, Aug. 31, 2011. DOD photo by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
“For 70 years [the USO] has supported our troops wherever they go,” Lynn said. “In the 90s, I personally saw the USO’s contributions in Kosovo and Bosnia, [and now, their service] on this tour in Afghanistan and Iraq.”
Lynn also said the USO maintains a large presence at Defense Department medical facilities in Landstuhl, Germany; Bethesda, Md.; at Fort Belvoir, Va.; and until recently, Walter Reed Army Medical Center here.
“[We’re here] to recognize the seven decades of service that the USO has provided,” the deputy secretary said. “They bring so much to our troops and their families.”
During the dedication, Mullen expressed his gratitude to Sloan D. Gibson, president and chief executive officer for the USO, for the services the USO has provided to countless service members throughout the years.
“It’s certainly most fitting that we recognize an organization that has truly made a difference in our peoples’ lives,” Mullen said. “There is this association with tours … Deborah and I have been blessed to be overseas with those entertainers, stars and athletes that give up their time.
“What is most precious about that,” the chairman continued, “is to be halfway around the world and to see, for a moment, the smiles on our men and women’s faces that these individuals bring to them.”
Mullen also reminded everyone it’s not just the lives of the men and women serving that are changed by entertainers supporting the USO.
“Oftentimes, the story that doesn’t get told is how those individuals’ lives have changed forever,” the chairman said. “They learn about us in ways that they didn’t expect, and they really have made a huge, huge difference.”
Lynn and Mullen said the USO is not just about celebrity tours, although that is what they are most known for.
“They’re known for the celebrity tours that you see going back to the era of Bob Hope,” Lynn said. “That’s certainly an important morale boost that they still do. The chairman has been known to lead a few of those trips. [But] they do so much more -- care packages, phone cards, whatever it is the troops and their families need.”
Mullen spoke of the USO’s commitment to the nation’s wounded warriors.
“The USO has been at the heart of the challenges with our wounded [and] our medical challenges from day one when these wars started and have made such a difference there as well,” he said. “So I am grateful for the privilege that we’ve had to participate with the USO during these extraordinarily challenging times.
“[And] we do focus on these trips to Afghanistan and Iraq, but quite frankly, USO goes all over the globe to engage our men and women in uniform,” Mullen added. “And we are eternally grateful for that.”
The chairman also thanked Michael Rhodes, director of administration and management for the Pentagon, who helped oversee the design and execution of the USO’s exhibit.
“Thanks for the work that went into this dedication. All of us in the Pentagon will cherish it,” the chairman said.
“Thanks again to the USO and all the difference the USO has made for so many years … it is a real treat,” Mullen added. “We are incredibly grateful and we look forward to a long-term, sustained relationship which just gets better and better.”