USO Programs Support Injured Troops, Families
By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
American Forces Press Service
MANAMA, Bahrain, Dec. 14, 2012 The USO's continued support to America's wounded, ill and injured military members tops the list of services troops would like to see from the nonprofit organization, USO President Sloan D. Gibson said here yesterday.
Gibson is traveling with Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on the annual USO holiday tour for overseas-stationed troops. The USO president said a survey conducted last year shows troops are most concerned about the care received by their wounded comrades.
“We just, in fact, did our fourth survey of troops and families all over the world,” Gibson said. “In the 2011 survey -- I don't have the data for the 2012 survey yet –- one of the things we ask every year is 'What's most important to you that the USO does?'
“For the first time, in 2011, the No. 1 thing on their list was taking care of wounded, ill and injured troops,” Gibson continued. “Keep in mind, only a very, very small percent of the people that were responding, had actually used any programs or facilities that we have.”
Gibson said the USO is doing “a lot of different things” to continue serving service members.
“We're building two of the largest USO centers anywhere in the world, [in the] Washington, D.C., area,” he said. “One in Fort Belvoir [in Virginia], is right on the brand-new medical campus down there. The other is at Bethesda [in Maryland] at the new Walter Reed location.”
The USO president said each of these facilities will be between 15 to 20,000 square feet and will serve as “focal points” for supporting wounded, ill and injured troops and their families.
“We've developed, and are delivering, an array of programs that are designed to help wounded, ill and injured troops sort of sustain their hope and instill confidence that they can achieve and have the fulfilling life that they always imagined,” Gibson said.
The object is to help keep families together and strong, he said, and to assist them in making plans for the future if they're going to leave the military.
“We want to make that transition a great transition; we want them to be as ready as they possibly can,” he said. “And we also want them to have a support network in place, so that after they're out, if things don't work out the way they expected, then they've got some resources to lean back on.”
Gibson said the USO sees this as “an important part of our work for an awful long time to come.”
“We call this overall effort Operation Enduring Care, and it's enduring for a reason,” he said. “Because we understand the long-term needs that [come after] 11 years of war. We want to be there.
“But we don't want to duplicate efforts,” Gibson continued. “Partnering is in our DNA -- the stars in the USO logo represent the six nonprofit organizations that [President] Franklin Roosevelt brought together almost 72 years ago to form the USO.”
Gibson also noted the USO works closely with the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, which he described as “one of our great partners -- a best-in-class organization.”
“We do a lot of things for families of the fallen with TAPS, around the world,” he said.
Gibson said many people believe the USO only produces entertainment tours for service members.
“But frankly, while it's very important, it's still only a fraction of what the organization does,” he said.
The USO is about lifting the spirits of America's troops and their families, Gibson said.
“And making sure that we're constantly changing to be as relevant as we can,” he said, “to make sure we're meeting their most urgent and pressing needs.