Corn hole competitions were a big hit of the night.
A healthy game of tug-of-war was good for the soul at Ft. Eustis.
The Human Christmas Tree contest was a hit at every location.
Mid-flight...KanJam at the US Coast Guard Base Portsmouth was amazing on a beautiful, sunny day.
The US Marines at the Dam Neck Annex loved Mrs. Claus but also the delicious cookies.
Airmen from Langley AFB enjoyed talking to Santa and taking photos to send home to family and friends.
Sailors at Joint Expeditionary Base-Little Creek enjoyed the hot cocoa bar on a chilly Saturday morning.
The COVID-19 Pandemic began in early 2020 in the United States and it changed life forever for nearly every human being on the planet. It forced businesses to think differently about their best practices to reach customers, sponsors and partners. The USO was no exception. Centers had to close temporarily which left many military members and their families without numerous services.
Centers are once again open, but Paula Moran, Executive Director, USO Hampton Roads and Central Virginia, and Team HRCV, decided to try a new approach and bring holiday joy directly to the troops. The Mobile Holiday Party (MHP) was born and brought a taste of home to six different installations in just 10 days hitting all five services. The events were held outdoors and included a hot cocoa bar, fresh hot popcorn, and gift bags for every Soldier, Sailor, Airman, Marine and Coast Guard member in attendance.
Santa and Mrs. Claus managed to make appearances to most of the stops despite their hectic toymaking schedule. Mrs. Claus passed out cookies to the troops while Santa posed for pics and took a few secret requests for plane tickets home for the holidays. Games such as corn hole, tug of war, Kan-Jam (a frisbee game), and the ever-popular human Christmas tree contest gave troops the chance to unwind after a long week of training and/or work.
Many of the staff and volunteers for the events were able to spend some quality time with more than 1,150 troops and family members to find out their holiday plans, possible travel plans and ideas for gifts in the giveaway bags for next year. For most, they wanted simple necessities such as socks, beanie hats, room deodorizers and hand warmers for cold-weather training. For others, just a taste of home like cookies and hot cocoa made a huge difference.
“One Soldier I spoke to had just transferred in from another unit and didn’t know many people,” said Moran. “A fellow Soldier invited him to come to our party and get some hot cocoa. It was all he needed to get out of the barracks and meet some new friends,” she said. “This is why we wanted to get out and visit the troops…to let them know we care.”
The MHPs were held at Fort Eustis, Fort Lee, Langley Air Force Base, US Coast Guard Base Portsmouth, Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek and the Dam Neck Annex. Team HRCV will start the year 2022 with a MHP visit to Fort Pickett for service members supporting Operation Welcome Allies so they can have the same fantastic experience the other venues had.
“The USO Mobile Holiday Party was a great opportunity for our AIT (Advanced In Training) Soldiers to experience some Holiday Cheer while being away from home,” said Drill Sergeant Chase Reeves, Echo Company, 58th Transportation Battalion, Fort Eustis, Va. “From the Hot Chocolate Bar, to photos with Santa and activities like tug of war, corn hole and ladder ball competitions, every solider had an opportunity to participate,” he said.
It looks like the MHP may be a new tradition for the Hampton Roads and Central Virginia military installations in the future as well.
“Having nearly 400 soldiers attend our USO MPH here was an amazing sight,” said Christine Salak, USO Center Operations Supervisor, Fort Eustis, Va. “We are thankful for the opportunity to serve our Soldiers, provide an opportunity for rest and relaxation, and help provide a little bit of a ‘home for the holidays’ feeling for those in the barracks.”
Special #MoreThanThanks to our local community members and organizations who assisted in filling over 2000 USO holiday bags for service members (in no specific order):
Eastern Shore Chapel, The Hockey Family, Oak Grove United Methodist Church, Tidewater Tech, The Burres Family, King of Glory Lutheran Church, The Goodwin Family, Mission BBQ, AvalonBay Communities, Air Combat Command (LAFB), The Boyd Family, Colonial Circle of the Kings Daughters and Sons, Delta Dental of Virginia Foundation, The Richards Family, The Sanchez Family, Kings Fork High School Cheerleading Squad, Omni Financial, The Barrett Family, Swells Point Medical/Dental Clinic, Atlantic Shores Christian School, Girl Scouts of the Commonwealth of Virginia, Girl Scouts of the Colonial Coast, the National Society of Daughters of the American Revolution and many others.
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