Reflecting on a year at the USO

Julianna and I are coming up on a full year of volunteering with the USO – by the end of July, we will have reached 12 months of service at the Charlotte USO. In honor of that milestone, and in the spirit of patriotism surrounding us as the 4th of July approaches, here are the top 10 reasons we love coming to the USO:

1. (M) Any excuse to be at the airport! “Ladies and gentlemen, please keep a close watch on your personal baggage at all times… if you notice any suspicious persons or unusual activity, please report it to your nearest law enforcement officer.” Love it. And there never are any policemen around when this announcement plays.

2. (J) Our ever-growing list of “friends” among the airport personnel: Freddie, Darren, Pete, John Regeis, Mike, Rich, Chris…and the list goes on and on.

3. (M) “WE NEED THEM. THEY NEED THE USO. THE USO NEEDS YOU. IT’S THAT SIMPLE.” 

(You can visit www.uso-nc.org to see what else is going on in Charlotte, or go to www.uso.org to find a center near you.)

4. (J) Those long, introspective walks down the B Concourse to pick up 40 Bojangles biscuits at 6:15am. The walk there is pleasant. The walk back? …no comment.

5. (M) Parking 3 miles from the airport, in the small hours of the morning, and taking an employee shuttle to the concourse. Since we are the only ones not in uniform, most people assume we work at the US Airways lounge. Which sounds a little… sketch, if you catch my drift.

6. (J) Knowing that flashing your biggest, brightest smile and giving your cheeriest “Good morning!” actually will make someone’s day. 😀

7. (M) Employee badges. With photos. As if it wasn’t bad enough to get a driver’s license, here’s another chance to get your picture taken under harsh fluorescent lighting! Yay! When the badges were first issued, there was… a glitch with the layout… so the pictures were distorted and we looked like pointy-headed aliens… however, the updated badges have corrected this fault. <sigh of relief>

8. (J) When some random man or woman decides that standing up front and talking with us is *better* than sitting in the armchairs with free food and free coffee. I mean, I totally agree with them – but it’s always a lot of fun when someone else realizes it, too. 😉

9. (M) The way each shift is a new experience. Searching for dental floss… figuring out how to work the DVD player… learning the subtle difference between video game controllers… shipping a serviceman’s jacket accidentally left behind… trying to locate documents in the B concourse lost and found… meeting a policeman from the K9 unit and his dog… greeting Mr. and Mrs. Jack Ahart as they came through (Jack is the former Charlotte USO director)… flipping through the comments notebook and seeing all the rave reviews for our center… sympathizing with travelers when their flights are delayed another 3 hours… getting the call that our missing co-worker overslept… it’s always different and always an adventure.

10. (J) Getting to know our coworkers really well. Don, who likes to work Christmas Day with his wife, Paula, since they are older and their kids have moved out – what better way to spend Christmas than ministering to our military and spending time with each other? Boyd, who loves Godiva chocolate – especially the White Chocolate Raspberry Star. Oscar, who knows everything about everything going on at the airport, the USO, and the US Airways Lounge. Kathleen, who has gone back to college as an adult to take culinary classes, because she loves to cook. You get the idea. With three hours on a slow morning, people tend to open up about themselves.

Conclusion? We ♥ the USO.

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