None of this would be possible without the support of our USO partners, generous individuals and community organizations. THANK YOU for Being a Force Behind the Forces®!
Months before official days and times are provided, USO volunteers begin to inquire how they can assist in this year’s Operation: I’ll be Home for the Holidays, widely known as Holiday Block Leave (HBL). Many regular volunteers have been supporting this program since the beginning and newer volunteers just learning about HBL ask to see how they can help.
From working long hours inside and outside, this undertaking couldn’t be done by one, two, or three individuals. It truly takes a special group of thoughtful people to spend those hours standing up/walking, handling goods, directing troops, even recruiting additional volunteers, and so much more. All this, to make sure those going home for the holidays are well taken care of.
“I love the interaction with the troops and the sincere gratitude they show for the USO being there (during HBL),” says Becky Martin, Richmond Intl’ Airport volunteer.
USO Airport Centers
One long weekend, each December, beginning as early as 12:00 midnight, our USO centers at Richmond International Airport (RIC), Newport News/Williamsburg Airport (PHF), and Norfolk International Airport (ORF) work around the clock, as they serve upwards of 6,000 service members traveling home for the holidays.
Weeks prior are spent coordinating logistics with airport and base personnel and seeking donations from community organizations and individual contributors. Team USO, including our amazing volunteers, provide food stations (some on mobile carts), USO travel bags, and a place of comfort; as numerous service members spend upwards of 8 hours awaiting an outbound flight.
Special thank you to all who supported our USO HRCV Airport Centers during HBL. (In no particular order).
USO PHF: USO Volunteers, Dunkin’, Coca-Cola Consolidated, and Wawa
USO ORF: USO Volunteers, Dunkin’, Monster Energy, Coca-Cola Consolidated, Chic-Fil-A Northampton, Boy Scouts of America Tidewater Council, Broad Creek Crossing, Wawa, and The Girl Scout Council of the Colonial Coast
USO RIC: USO Volunteers, Wawa, Papa Johns, The Girl Scouts of the Commonwealth of Virginia, Blue Star Mothers of Richmond/Charlottesville/Fredricksburg, Village Bank, Kat Simons of Lite98, Capital Region Airport Commission Staff, Blue Goose International, Knights of Columbus, DAV50, Emmi and Kennedy, James M. Slay Det. USMC, MOAA Richmond, Niagra Water, Soldier Fuel, and a host of individual donations.
Team USO in the Field
Before the troops make their way to the airports, train and bus stations, or are picked up by loved ones, Holiday Block Leave first starts on base. This year, Team HRCV was involved in several holiday exodus events across Hampton Roads and Central Virginia.
Virginia Beach, VA. - Assorted Wawa hoagies, Scout popcorn, and USO holiday goodie bags were given to the soldiers at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story (Fort Story) before they parted ways for the holidays.
Newport News, VA. - Soldiers from the 7th Transportation Brigade (Expeditionary) on Joint Base Langley - Eusits (Fort Eustis) received some USO holiday cheer during Motor Pool Monday. Not only did they receive a USO travel bag, but thanks to longstanding partner, Wawa and The Wawa Foundation, they also picked up a hot breakfast and coffee.
Prince George County, VA. - As thousands of initial entry training students on Fort Lee began leaving post, they received a USO travel bag and were treated with a delicious hot pancake spread, fresh fruits, and breakfast drinks provided by the USO Mobile Kroger Food Truck. Soldiers got to dress their pancakes in traditional butter and syrup, or some were creative with the flavored syrups, jams, powdered sugar, and whipped cream. In addition, they got to experience the USO HRCV popcorn bar, where they could pick from a vast assortment of sweet, savory, and/or spicy popcorn toppings.
As we’ve concluded this year’s Holiday Block Leave, planning for 2023 is already taking place. We look forward to having our 2023 USO partners, community donors, and USO volunteers join us in this endeavor.
Want to learn how you can help Operation: I’ll be Home for the Holidays? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
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