(StatePoint) The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a particularly heavy toll on U.S. service members, according to advocates.
“Even without a global pandemic, troops face separation, isolation and unique hardships and risks associated with their military service. As a result of the pandemic, many of these challenges have only intensified,” says Christopher Plamp, senior vice president for Operations, Programs and Entertainment for the United Service Organizations (USO).
Over the past year, the USO, a nonprofit charitable corporation chartered by Congress, met the rapidly changing needs of service members by developing and deploying alternative support to frontline troops around the world. Thousands of virtual and distance programming events have reached over 2.5 million participants so far. Here are a few ways these efforts are making the lives of military members and their families easier during the COVID-19 crisis:
• Traditional center programming has gone virtual, with trivia nights, scavenger hunts, story time for families, networking for military spouses and career help for those transitioning to civilian life all going online. The USO Military Virtual Programming (MVP) series offers a wide variety of positive, uplifting programming, music, and gaming initiatives. These programs serve not only as a reprieve from the stress of daily life but are also a chance to connect with celebrity guests and other members of the global military community.
• Already far from home, quarantined service members are also isolated from their fellow service members on base. To help keep them entertained and connected to their families, home and country, the USO provides Care Packages and USO2GO electronic kits that include TVs, gaming systems, and more to over one million service members and families as they have been in quarantine.
• Mobile USO units deployed across the country to COVID-19 hotspots work closely with the National Guard Bureau to provide food, beverages, and hygiene items to guardsmen as well as a place to relax after long shifts. USO teams have also aided US Navy hospital ships, such as the USNS Mercy and USNS Comfort. While military medical teams are stepping in to help care for COVID-19 patients, the USO provides supplies and amenities like toiletry kits, comfort foods and gym equipment as a tangible way of supporting the U.S. Armed Forces.
• Open COVID-19-compliant, USO Centers on military installations provide to-go snacks, movies and youth activities to service members and military families to enjoy in the safety of their own homes.
Because the USO is not a government agency, it relies on individual supporters to fund its programming. To learn more about the USO’s response to COVID-19 or to make a donation, visit secure.uso.org.
“For 80 years, the USO has been by the side of our military, from peaceful times to heightened conflicts,” says Plamp. “We are proud to provide impactful programming just where it is needed most while taking precautions to keep our volunteers, staff and the military community we support safe and healthy.”
Photo Credit: (c) USO Photos