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The Force Behind the Force: Celebrating 77 Years of the USO

By Sgt. Audrey Hayes | Office of the Chief, Army Reserve | Dec. 17, 2018

NEW YORK — Fighting and winning America’s wars takes more than resources, it takes support and effort from the American people. For the last 77 years, the United Services Organization (USO), a group of 30,000 volunteers, has been the force behind our Armed forces — keeping every service member connected to their family, home and country. 

To celebrate the service of ‘the force behind the force,’ the USO of Metropolitan New York hosted the 57th Armed Forces Gala and Gold Medal Dinner, Dec. 12, 2018, at the Manhattan Marriott Marquis, New York. 

The gala included entertainment from the USO Show Troupe, singer and songwriter Matt Nathanson, and special guests like Willie Giest – the host of NBC’s "Sunday Today." 

During the event, Lt. Gen. Charles D. Luckey, the chief of the Army Reserve and commanding general of U.S. Army Reserve Command, awarded five service members, one from each branch of the military, with the George Van Cleave USO Military Leadership Award. 

Among the awardees were Staff Sgt. Ronald J. Shurer II, the latest Medal of Honor recipient, and Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Traci Huddleston. Huddleston helped a teenage girl over a mile to safety and provided first aid for five hours until medical assistance arrived, after an active shooter opened fire on a crowd at a country music festival in Las Vegas, Nevada, Oct. 1, 2018. 

In addition to awarding our Nation’s heroes, Luckey was the keynote speaker for the gala, on behalf of the Army. Luckey spoke about the stress that’s been placed on our military, over the last 16 years, while we’ve been fighting a war overseas. 

“It’s not going to get any easier,” said Luckey. “We’re in an era where our adversaries present a near-peer threat on every battle domain.” 

Luckey went on to say that we are able to “weave the national security fabric of the United States and defend the Constitution against all enemies — foreign and domestic” with the help of the USO and American corporations who support the USO.

This year, Raytheon CEO, Dr. Thomas Kennedy was awarded USO’s Distinguished Service Award at the gala. Their workforce is comprised of 60 percent veterans and service members. 

Corporations like Raytheon, who share their employees with the military, help combat near-peer threats by allowing the Army Reserve to do their part in putting forth the finest talent America has to offer.

Now, more than ever, the Army Reserve has been preparing to use America’s talent by sending Reserve Soldiers to the fight, sometimes with only a 30-day’s notice, and that is made possible through relationships and a continuous flow of support from the rest of the Nation.

“We believe that supporting our military is the duty of each and every American,” said Brian Whiting, CEO and President of USO, Metropolitan New York. “We are committed to closing the drift between our service members and the American people and keeping our military connected with everything it is that they love and everything that they’re fighting for—their family, their home and their country.”

It’s support like this, that reaches from the heart of the country to the heart of the military, which allows them to protect freedom and the American way life.