Chamber of Commerce hosts event to honor USO

June 5, 2009

By Jim Feehan

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Katherine Boles was working at a Denny’s restaurant as a teenager when an Army recruiter asked if she enjoyed her work. 

“I don’t want to do this. It sucks,” she told the recruiter. “I enlisted right away and it changed my life.”

Boles spend 10 years in the Army’s Active Guard Reserve program, better known by the acronym AGR. AGR soldiers serve in full-time, active-duty positions around the world, ensuring Army Reserve units are ready to mobilize when needed.

Keynote speaker Katherine Boles describes her time in the Army during a May 18 event recognizing the USO.  By Jim Feehan

Keynote speaker Katherine Boles describes her time in the Army during a May 18 event recognizing the USO. By Jim Feehan

“I can’t tell you how much the Army impacted my life as a youth. It was priceless,” Boles said. “I enjoyed my experience in the Army, and the USO was always there for us.”

Boles, a member and former board member of the Newcastle Chamber of Commerce, served as the keynote speaker at an event honoring veterans and the USO. 

About 60 people gathered May 18 at The Golf Club at Newcastle, sponsored by the chamber. The following day, the USO held its Red, White and Blue Golf Tournament at the club. 

Former Seattle Seahawk and Air Force Academy graduate Bryce Fisher, who grew up in Renton, served as the honorary chairman. Fisher spent the day with soldiers on the course and spoke to the group at the dinner. Active duty personnel were sponsored for the day on the links. 

The golf tournament and a gala in October at the Museum of Flight are the two biggest fundraising activities for the USO, said Don Leingang, executive director of the Puget Sound area USO.

“Quite simply, we take care of military families,” Leingang said. “And that could be the soldier from Alabama who shows up at Sea-Tac and asks, ‘Where is Fort Lewis?’”

The United Service Organization was founded in 1941 at the request of President Roosevelt to provide morale support and recreation services to U.S. troops at home and abroad. During World War II, the USO became the G.I.’s “home away from home” and began a tradition of entertaining the troops that continues today. 

In 1966, a USO center was established at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. A center was opened in 1984 at McChord Air Force Base. Last year, a largely volunteer staff served about 386,000 military members and families with travel assistance, troop care packages and providing homecoming events for returning soldiers, Leingang said.

“I can’t tell you how much the USO volunteers are appreciated,” he said. 

For the past six years, Sarah Rindlaub has served on the local USO board.

Forty years ago, she served as a flight attendant, bringing U.S. soldiers home from Vietnam.

“The USO was there for soldiers when they didn’t receive the warmest welcomes when they came stateside,” she said. “The USO continues that role today.”

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