Quite a few years ago, I did volunteer work for the USO -- the United
Service Organizations -- in their military person's center in downtown
Chicago, and also at the VA Hospital. Although the VA Hospitals are
maintained by the United States Government, the USO receives
absolutely *no* federal funding. They depend entirely on private
citizens for support.
And this year the USO has a huge task awaiting them at the Christmas
season. Over 400,000 of our troops will be stuck in overseas places,
such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Korea, and other spots. For the first time
since World War 2, American troops are in several places at once. In a
lot of the places where troops are stationed, the natives don't care
at all about Christmas, Kwanzaa, or Hanukkah.
So the USO has decided that every single one of these 400,000 young
men and women who won't be 'home by Christmasn' know they have not been
Its hard to imagine -- unless you have been in that situation yourself
-- what it is like to spend your Holidays in a dusty desert or on a
barren mountainside. You're away from your freinds and family. You
can't hug your kids or your spouse, or hear their laughter, or share a
few drinks with your buddies. The holiday season is absolutely the
worst time of the year to be at the front lines. More than one service
member either tries or is successful in committing suicide. For many
of them, just a simple wors of 'thanks, we appreciate you doing what
you can ' makes a world of difference; sometimes in their sanity. I
know from my volunteer experience with USO during the Vietnam era how
much it helps these guys just knowing that someone cares.
Your gift to help the USO help our troops is really critical. There
are ways we in the telecom industry can especially help.
Operation Phone Home: The USO in cooperation with telephone companies
provide 'American phone service' to the troops in the form of prepaid
calling cards to use at special telephones rigged to bring 'American'
operators on the line as needed. USO sees to it that everyone who
wants a calling card gets one. Can you help?
Cyber Canteens: Years ago, USO gave coffee and doughnuts for free, which
they still do, but now they also provide public computer stations so
troops can 'surf the web', send/recieve email from family and friends,
read newsgroups, etc. They have these both at fixed locations, and at
'mobile spots which travel around as the troops travel around. They
are called ATV's, and take the coffee, soda, ice cream *and computer
terminals* to the troops for their use. The computer stations are
operated over satellite links, to connections provided by a few ISP's
back in the United States as a courtesy. Can you help?
Of course, USO still has their entertainment tours with movie stars
and television personalities who donate their time and many other
functions going on as well.
But where you could really be of help is with the phone calling cards
and the Cyber Canteens. Why don't you send them a check today, and if
you wish, ask them to earmark your money for telephone calling cards
or the Cyber Canteen, or the mobile 'ATV' canteens, so the guys can
stay on line and stay in touch. Of course, USO gifts are tax-deductable,
501-c-3 gifts per IRS.
United Service Organizations (or USO for short)
PO Box 96860
Washington, DC 20077-7677
Thanks very much for taking the time to read this special appeal.