Mullen, Servicemembers Show Support with Care Packages
By Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Carden
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, July 2, 2010 The nation’s top military officer and the USO of Metropolitan Washington teamed up here today for the Pentagon’s first Operation USO Care Package stuffing party.
At least 200 Pentagon workers, family members and USO Metro volunteers spent the morning putting together care packages for deployed troops. Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and his wife, Deborah, were among the volunteers.
“Thanks for doing this,” Mullen told the volunteers. “I’ve been in the field with the troops a lot, and I know what a difference this makes.”
Mullen expressed his appreciation for USO on behalf of the 2.2 million members of the military. USO has been reaching out to troops deployed overseas for more than 60 years.
“[USO’s support of military members] gives us strength, it gives us inspiration, and it helps us in what are very, very difficult times,” the chairman said.
Today’s goal was to stuff 2,000 packages, Ron Wise, director of the USO Care Package Program, said. The packages will be shipped July 6 to units in Iraq and Afghanistan.
USO and volunteers have stuffed and shipped more than 1.9 million packages to date, Wise said, adding that he’s looking forward to the program’s next milestone. USO should reach 2 million packages by October, he said.
"I'm privileged to be with the best military we've ever had,” Mullen told the volunteers. “Families have been extraordinary in their support. We need that, and we need all of you."
The Operation USO Care Package program began in 2003. It was a solution for sending care packages to deployed troops in light of precautions put in place after Anthrax attacks that followed the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Elaine B. Rogers, USO Metro president, said at the stuffing party today.
USO care package contents come straight from the manufacturers to USO, and include toiletries, calling cards, batteries, snacks and other items requested by deployed troops, Rogers explained.
The packages are meant to boost troops’ morale, which is always motivating for her and the volunteers, Rogers said. But being able to “party” in the Pentagon is a particularly thrilling experience, she added.
“This is a pretty exciting day for the USO,” Rogers said. “This, today, is a real dream for us to actually be in the Pentagon. This is always a very, very humbling experience to me.”
Rogers thanked the Mullens for sponsoring the event.
“It’s nice to know people,” she said, drawing laughter from the crowd. “To the Mullens, thank you so much for hosting us. To have you all here with us says so much about what we do for our troops. USO doesn’t really do anything. It’s what you all come together to do. It’s a true volunteer effort.”