MARINE CORPS AIR STATION BEAUFORT, S.C. -- Since 1941 United Service Organizations volunteers have been providing morale and recreational services to military personnel worldwide - often times offering a place for traveling service members to take a break or receive refreshments.
Although South Carolina does not currently have its own official chapter or service center, USO volunteers from neighboring communities are energized towards that goal and have been hard at work supporting Fightertown during deployments and homecomings during the last year.
The USO volunteers brave the elements on the flightline here, bringing with them food and beverages, hygiene packets, calling cards and often times handshakes and smiles to Marines, sailors and their families as they spend their last moments together at deployments and homecomings.
"I think every USO volunteer is proud to play a small role in the support of America's military," said Philip Malmstedt, a USO volunteer. "Our mission is to promote the morale and welfare of the service members stationed in the area."
The USO volunteers recently provided their services by helping to welcome the 400-plus Marines and sailors of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 251, Navy Strike Fighter Squadron 86 and a detachment from Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 31 on the flightline Nov. 17 and 18.
"I can't say enough about the USO volunteers - they provide outstanding support to our Marines, sailors and families," said Col. Robert Lanham, the commanding officer of the Air Station. "They are always willing to come support a homecoming or deployment, even amidst last-minute notices or inconvenient times of day. They readily sacrifice their time, resources and energy to be here for our folks.
The local USO volunteers are comprised of approximately 60 active volunteers from various backgrounds including military retirees as well as active-duty service members. The nonprofit organization relies heavily on those volunteers and donations to provide support, but some supplies are also provided by USO World and the USO Savannah chapter.
"We enjoy sending and receiving the Marines and sailors of Fightertown with smiles, handshakes and hugs at all of the going-aways and homecomings," said Gunnery Sgt. Jose Valdez, the Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron ground safety manager and a USO Savannah chapter volunteer.
The USO has more than 130 centers throughout the United States and overseas that provide support to all the military installations and personnel throughout the country. Volunteering with the USO is one way for local citizens to give something back to Lowcountry service members,
according to Susann Malmstedt, a USO volunteer.
"We volunteer because we really appreciate what the Marines and sailors have sacrificed for us," Malmstedt said. "I really like seeing the families reunite after a long deployment."
"I volunteer because this is a way for me to give back to my fellow leathernecks and sailors who are putting themselves in harm's way,"
Valdez said. "I feel the need to give back to the military because it as provided my family and me so much."
For more information on how to get involved with the USO, call the Savannah Chapter at (912) 354-5794 or visit their Web site at www.uso.org.