News: USO doors remain open after 70 years
Story by Pfc. Nikki Phongsisattanak
CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. - Military members are continually in transit, flying from coast to coast to their places of duty.
Because of a lack of experience, traveling may not always be a walk in the park for younger service members, but luckily for them the United Service Organizations is there to offer assistance.
The USO of North Carolina in Jacksonville helps and supports service members, easily extending far beyond the guidance to gate checks or the typical pit stop for fresh “boots.”
Unlike other USOs commonly located in airports, the Jacksonville Center sits in the heart of downtown Jacksonville. There are about 170 USOs throughout the world, but the Jacksonville Center is the oldest, continuously operating USO facility in the world, recently reaching their 70th anniversary.
The USO was established Feb. 5, 1941, at the presidential request of Franklin D. Roosevelt and within a year the Jacksonville Center opened up.
Following World War II, the USO and nearly all of their facilities closed, however the Jacksonville Center remained opened, driven by resilient efforts of its volunteers.
“Volunteers are the heart of their organization,” said John Falkenbury, the president of the USO of North Carolina.
Their mission of providing support and off-duty recreation to military members and their families is one of unyielding success.
During the 1950s the center hosted events and provided entertainment such as big-band dance nights, miniature golf, basketball, roller skating and pool. Some of those activities are still available with the additional event improvements such as performances from famous musicians or bands.
Although the USO is a private, nonprofit organization, supported entirely by private citizens and corporations, they’ve maintained a strong commitment to serving those who serve their country.
The USO also offers programs and events such as deployment and homecoming support. For example, the Smiles Over Miles program allows service members and their family members to create accounts online and send secure videos during deployments.
They also host Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners for service members and their families.
The Jacksonville Center truly beat the odds with its volunteers fighting to keep its doors open through economic hardships and other challenges. The facility itself survived several hurricanes, and those who man its post have shown unmatched resilience and compassionate support to their cause and purpose.
The Jacksonville Center is located at 9 Tallman Street Jacksonville, NC.
For more information, visit www.uso-nc.org/our-centers/uso-of-north-carolina-jacksonville-center or call 455-3411.