Just a few years ago, I was nervously waiting on my connecting flights to Bogota, Colombia with a 17 month old nursing baby on my hip. My first leg of the flight was from Lexington, Kentucky to Chicago, Illinois; O’Hare was noisy, busy, and in my eyes, germ ridden. It wasn’t a vacation for us, you see in my former life I was an Army wife (in my former, former life I was an Navy Nuclear Electrician but that’s a story for another day) and we were traveling to stay with my (now ex-) husband. If traveling alone internationally wasn’t stressful enough, I was going to be in Colombia for months. I’d heard stories and watched news reports about the Colombian Cartel and FARC (“revolutionaries” that hated U.S. presence and involvement in Colombia). I was terrified, but we hadn’t seen him in months and we were trying to keep our family together. Our layover in Chicago was over 6 hours, which is uncomfortable enough when traveling alone, but I was trying to keep a baby entertained too. What would I do while waiting on our connecting flight? I remembered there was a USO facility in the airport.
Gabe and I took refuge in the USO. The ladies volunteering in the USO fed me chili and brownies, and helped me find toys and videos to keep Gabe amused. It allowed me to try to relax a little before our long flight and journey ahead.
The rooms were scattered with soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines traveling around the world in support of our military; many were sleeping or relaxing on duffel bags on the floor since it was nearly full. I’d traveled through USO facilities before, but on this day, I realized what a sanctuary it is to a weary traveler.
Several days ago, a gift arrived from Johnson & Johnson as a thank you for my participation in the Johnson & Johnson Social Influencer for Social Good program; it was a beautiful knit blanket and they had made a purchase from the USO Wishbook. The blanket was beautiful, but the USO Wishbook purchase was my favorite.
My family and I (both of my brothers were vets too) have witnessed the incredible work of the USO. The USO Wishbook allows you to gift things such as comfort food packages, phone calls home, and caregiver support through donations.
Johnson & Johnson made a $75 donation for a Flight Home Comfort Kit that includes items such as blankets and airplane pillows to help make the flight home more comfortable for a wounded troop. You can check out all of the types of projects and programs that a USO Wishbook donation supports here.
Do you want to give a gift that gives back this holiday season? Please consider “ordering” something from the USO Wishbook. This would be a neat stocking stuffer item too.