USO 75th Anniversary

As it turns 75, the USO’s mission is as vital today as it was in 1941. To mark its anniversary, the USO of Illinois is inviting Americans to get reacquainted with today’s USO, whose mission is to strengthen America’s military service members by keeping them connected to family, home and country throughout their service to the nation. The USO will launch its year-long celebration during USO Week in Illinois, January 31 – February 6, 2016, which features programs and activities that support service members and their families throughout Illinois, and provide opportunities for the Illinois public to engage with and learn about the USO’s mission. All Americans can help their military neighbors, friends and relatives – and service members whom they’ve never met – by staying more closely connected to them as they serve the nation. The USO is dedicating itself to making those connections easier to maintain. Throughout the year, the USO will share historical and real-time memories via #USOconnects and is inviting the public to share their memories, experiences, appreciation and stories of connection by using the hashtag. In addition, the USO has designed a gold and blue anniversary logo to commemorate the milestone.

“We embrace our mission of connection,” USO of Illinois President & CEO, Alison Ruble, said.  “As we turn 75 years young, the USO of Illinois is honored to be the constant, uplifting and positive presence in our service members lives, and in the lives of their families.  While we reflect on our legacy of 75 years of serving the needs of our military, we’re proud of our local community, grateful for our many dedicated USO Volunteers, and honored to support the well-being of our military and their families—whether they reside in the great state of Illinois, are stationed here or train here, or are simply passing through for a visit at one of our centers.  We move forward as an organization, continuing to forge strong and lasting connections between our service members and the American people they serve.”

As the nation braced itself for World War II in 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt recognized that maintaining high morale in America’s fighting force would be vital to the nation’s success in battle. “Not by machines alone will we win this war,” Roosevelt said. On February 4, 1941, he led the founding of the USO as the nation’s organization dedicated to keeping service members connected to the people and places they were fighting for. The first USO center to open in the state of Illinois was the “USO Service Man’s Center,” located at the Illinois Central Railroad Terminal at Roosevelt Road in April of 1942, and the second in the historic Union Station on May 20, 1942.

Some of the highlights for this yearlong celebration include:

USO Week in Illinois – January 31- February 6, 2016

  • Watch the Chicago’s skyline throughout the week as the Building Owners and Managers Association of Chicago (BOMA/Chicago) supports the USO by approving and encouraging downtown Chicago buildings to light up for the USO’s 75th birthday.

Monday, February 1:

  • USO Discovery Kids presents: “USO Cupcake Wars: 75th Birthday Edition.” With support provided by the Chicago Blackhawks and Fresh Market of Lake Forest, IL, military kids will learn how to bake and decorate special cupcakes from a professional baker, making their own mini USO birthday cakes.  A pizza party and special movie showing in the USO Great Lakes’ PepsiCo Movie Theatre will follow.  Time: 5:00pm – 8:00pm   Location: USO Great Lakes facility, Building 27, Naval Station Great Lakes, Great Lakes, IL.

Tuesday, February 2:

  • USO Military Spouse Night: A fun, community-building social gathering for active duty military spouses presented at the USO Rock Island center, in partnership with Army Community Services.  The monthly event is a social opportunity for military spouses to meet and make new friends.  The event features USO Game Night activities and trivia contest, a meal supported by Texas Roadhouse.  Time: 6:00pm- 8:00pm  Location:  USO Rock Island Center, Building 110, Rock Island Arsenal, Rock Island, IL

Wednesday, February 3:

  • USO’s 75th Birthday Party hosted by CNA, featuring a special Ceremony, Cake Cutting, Live Music and Luncheon with special edition USO Canteen Menu, circa 1941.   Military Color Guard, National Anthem sung by recording artist, Alleece Baker and the USO Jazz Ensemble.  Time: 11:45am – 1:15pm  Location: Hubbard’s, 2nd Floor, CNA Building 333 S. Wabash Ave., Chicago

Thursday, February 4— USO’s 75th Birthday!

  • USO Press Conference and Birthday Cake-Cutting at USO O’Hare, Terminal 2 Center: featuring a Mayoral Proclamation from the City of Chicago commemorating “USO Day in Chicago”  Time: 7:30am – 8:30am   Location: USO O’Hare Center, Mezzanine Level, Terminal 2, above Delta Airlines ticket counter.
  • USO of Illinois Center Birthday Celebrations: Birthday cake and refreshments is being served to all visitors at the 5 USO of Illinois Centers, each Center will be festively decorated with balloons and streamers. Time: 7:30am – 5:30pm
  • What Our Communities Are Teaching Us: Strategies Aimed at Supporting America’s Transitioning Service Members, Veterans, and Their Families. Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University (IVMF), in partnership with the USO of Illinois and Illinois Joining Forces present a discussion around collective impact and the experience of various communities across the U.S. in implementing  theories into practice in support of transitioning service members, veterans, and their families.  Time: 10:00am – 1:00pm   Location: The Harold Washington Library Center, Multipurpose Room B, 400 S. State Street, Chicago, IL

Saturday, February 6:

  • For the past 9 years, the Westmoreland Paddle Platoon has hosted an Annual USO Paddle Marathon with proceeds going to USO of Illinois. Founded in 2007 by Tom Maentz and Scott Johnson, the USO Paddle Marathon is held at paddle courts around Chicago with the founders playing at the Westmoreland Country Club and has raised over $110,000 in support of USO of Illinois programs since its inception. This year, Westmoreland and a few other local Clubs have designated February 6 or February 13 as USO Paddle Day. For the more than 330,000 service members and their families served annually by the USO of Illinois, this kind of support is tremendous. This year the event is expanding with a new partnership at the Winter Club in Lake Forest.
  • USO Volunteers serving USO Birthday Cake and Girl Scout Cookies to service members of the 183rd Fighter Wing, Illinois Air National Guard, Springfield, IL. USO will be providing special sweets and treats at lunchtime for units of Illinois National Guard service members in appreciation for their service to our nation and communities. The free desserts are made possible by the USO of Illinois and the Girl Scouts of Great Chicago and Northwest Indiana and is a way for the USO to provide and extra special touch of hospitality and “home away from home” for military that the USO is famous for. Time and Location: 11:30 AM – 12:30 PM at Abraham Lincoln Airport, 183rd Fighter Wing, Springfield Illinois.

Camp R & R

Carnival

Clark After Dark

Discovery Kids

Great Lakes Center

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Great Lakes Theater Before and After

Heartland Classic

Home for the Holidays

Midway

Navy Pier

No Dough Dinners

Operation Enduring Thanks

Operation Phone Home

O’Hare Center - Terminal 2

O’Hare Center - Terminal 3

Rock Island Center

Spirit of the USO

Sweet Home Chicago Care Package

Tickets For Troops

Toast to the Troops

U-505 Naval History

United Through Reading

USO Gala

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USO Great Lakes Kids Room

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USO History

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