GUAYNABO, Puerto Rico –
During a time of extreme devastation caused by recent atmospheric events, the United Service Organizations (USO), a nonprofit, charitable corporation chartered by Congress, has made its way to Puerto Rico to serve the Soldiers, who are helping local communities in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.
Bruce Kmiec, Director of USO Delaware, one of the two officials that traveled to set up USO centers in Puerto Rico, explained the mission of the organization in the Caribbean island.
“The mission of USO here is to bring a sense of home to the Soldiers who are out working in the devastated areas of Puerto Rico doing recovery missions. They can come home, to tent city, get a little rest and relaxation to reset their clocks, so they can feel more valued and refreshed. It means a lot to them and they can go back out to the field feeling revived,” said Kmiec.
The USO established its centers in Aguadilla, Ceiba, Ponce and at the Institute of Forensic Sciences (IFC) in San Juan. Each facility has air conditioners, solid floors, sports equipment, domino tables, television sets, Blu-Ray players, video games, and barbecue equipment, among other amenities.
In addition, each USO location offers consumables, such as snacks and sodas. The equipment will be transferred to the Army Reserve, 1st Mission Support Command (1st MSC) to use it as needed, in support of the Soldiers.
Command Sgt. Maj. Angel Rivera, 1st MSC’s Family Program senior counselor, shared his thoughts about the experience of working along with the USO.
“This experience gives me a different opportunity to help the Soldiers directly,” said Rivera. “These USOs are important because Soldiers can go there after a rough day and relax in air conditioner, with snacks and video games to recharge their energy for the next day.”
Spc. Luis E. Torres Vargas, a mortuary affairs specialist assigned to the U.S. Army Reserve 246st Quartermaster Company, recently had the chance to use the USO facilities.
“At the end of the day, we come here to have fun and decompress,” said Torres. “Everyone here is grateful for the USO donation to us. If it wasn’t for that, we don’t know how our day could end in a better way, having fun with your peers and disconnecting a little from what happened during the day.”
In the first few days of USO operations in the island, thousands of Soldiers used the facilities, which clearly demonstrates the difference that the organization is making in the Soldiers’ lives.
The USO facilities in Puerto Rico are available to all service members with proper military identification.