JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, WA, UNITED STATES
JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. – The USO has been an integral part of service members lives since shortly before the United States entered World War II. While the organization’s mission - to lift the spirits of America's troops and their families - is national, it does much of its work at the local level serving troops such as those from 1st Battery, 37th Field Artillery Regiment “Red Lions,” 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division.
The Red Lions were on hand, March 14, at the USO Northwest's McChord Field location for a free meal offered as part of a new program started last month called "No Dough Dinners."
"A No Dough Dinner is a free meal put on by our volunteers for service members the day before payday, because that's usually when they have 'no dough,'" explained Andrew Oczkewicz, manager for the JBLM USO Northwest (USONW) Shali Center, conveniently located next to the McChord Field passenger terminal.
Free food was not all being offered, however. A raffle, made possible by the volunteers at the USO, was held following dinner. Every 1-37 FA soldier on hand received a ticket as they arrived and random tickets were selected by the soldiers themselves. Items such as travel mugs, homemade blankets and even a $100 gift certificate were being raffled off.
Programs like the "No Dough Dinner" would not be possible if not for local volunteers like Alice Caravias, from Seattle, Wash., who routinely volunteers at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport USO and was available to assist with the special event.
"I've been volunteering with the USO for about four and a half years. It's my way of giving back to the military because I'm very appreciative for what [our service members] do," Caravias explained.
Beside the volunteers, sponsors are integral to ensuring the dinner is a success as well, said Oczkewicz. It is because of their contribution that 100 Red Lions soldiers were able to eat free Thursday evening.
This week's sponsor was Grand Canyon University, "a small, nondenominational Christian University in Phoenix, Ariz.," Craig Fennessy, University Development Representative with GCU, explained.
When asked why a school from Arizona would be interested in sponsoring a USO event in Washington State, Fennessy said that as a 20-year Air Force retiree, who retired in 2009 from the 4th Airlift Squadron located at McChord, he had the opportunity to visit some of the USO centers from all over the world and felt the services they provide to the military were second to none.
This was a great opportunity for GCU to help the USO help those who serve in the U.S. military, Fennessy said.
"Grand Canyon [University] is very proud to enter into a partnership with the USO and we look forward to as many of the events like this that we can get our hands on,” said Fennessy. “We just love helping out."
The "No Dough Dinners” are not all the Shali Center provides. According to their website, the “USONW Shali Center works closely with the base operations staff during troop deployments to distribute individual USO care packages to each and every military member deploying to combat zones through Joint Base Lewis-McChord."
As well, the USONW Shali Center provides a troop lounge, Xbox, computers with free Internet; and a deli style breakfast, lunch and dinner for free. The staff and volunteers also work closely with many Family Readiness Groups to provide assistance to military families and reaches out to single soldiers through various programs.
For more information on how you can help the USONW support JBLM soldiers and their families, contact Andrew Oczkewicz at 360-789-2972.
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This work, Red Lions treated to a USO 'No Dough Dinner', by SSG Christopher McCullough, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.