Brightening the Holiday Season for the Military CommunityNov 08, 2023 11:02AM ● By StatePoint
USO staff hand out goodies to soldiers. Photo courtesy of USO photos
SACRAMENTO REGION, CA (MPG) - As we enter the holiday season and Americans across the country look forward to spending time with family, thousands of service members deployed overseas – many to the Middle East in response to the Israel-Hamas war – will not have that luxury and will be spending the holidays far away from loved ones.
Here is how USO Holidays programming delivers a piece of home to them, along with ideas for how you can get involved:
1. Care packages: A care package might seem small in light of the challenges of deployment, but for many service members, they’re a reminder that they’re not forgotten by Americans back home. Aside from standard USO Care Packages, which contain snacks or toiletries, USO Holidays Care Packages have festive treats and goodies, such as holiday candies, cozy socks and a warm beanie, that help bridge the gap between home and the frontlines. This year, the USO will deliver 50,000 holiday packages to over 250 locations globally.
2. Holiday traditions: Giving up treasured family traditions can be difficult. That’s why USO Centers and USO Mobile teams host holiday meals for service members and their families, complete with special treats ranging from pumpkin and sweet potato pie to hot cocoa bars. Each December, USO Holidays Cookie Week celebrates the time-honored tradition of baking and decorating cookies, putting service members and military families in the holiday spirit wherever they are located. Other seasonal programming can include tree decorating, arts and crafts, holiday-themed movie nights and ugly sweater competitions. Through these activities, service members stationed far from home can still make holiday memories.
3. Connections to home: Staying connected to family during the holidays can be difficult for service members stationed overseas, particularly for those in or near regions in conflict such as Eastern Europe or the Middle East. The USO Reading Program enables deployed service members to record themselves reading a book to their child. Then, the recording and a copy of the book are sent to that service member’s family.
4. Happy travels: As most people know, holiday travel can be especially taxing. Thousands of service members and trainees from military installations across the country participate in the Holiday Block Leave period, many traveling through some of the busiest airports in the United States to be with their families during the holidays. USO airport centers can alleviate some of that stress for service members and trainees by providing a place to relax and unwind before the next leg of their journey, along with all the comfort items they need.
To learn more about these programs and how to support them, and for ideas on how to reach out to the military community to express your thanks during the holidays and throughout the year, visit uso.org/campaign/holidays.
The holiday season can look very different for service members and military families who must celebrate while separated from loved ones and home in all corners of the world. Bringing everyone together on special days fosters camaraderie and positivity, and provides a welcome break from the demands of military life.