Military Life

4 things you didn't know about the USO

The United Service Organizations, or USO, has gone above and beyond to serve those in uniform. It's their mission to strengthen America's military by keeping service men and women happy and connected to their families back home.

The USO has been the driving force behind entertainment programs and families service for nearly 80 years across more than 200 locations worldwide, including Germany, Djibouti, and Afghanistan.


"When we were off-mission, the USO tents were the go-to spot for all the troops." Army veteran Eric Milzarski says.

A Soldier with the 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, poses with comedian Iliza Shlesinger during a USO tour, Dec. 16, 2012, at Forward Operating Base Masum Ghar, Afghanistan. (Photo by Sgt. Kimberly Hackbarth, 4th SBCT, 2nd Inf. Div. Public Affairs Office)

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With all the great press the private organization has earned, a lot of little things get lost in the shuffle. Here are a few things you might not know about this highly patriotic service.

1. Their unique history

In 1941, President Roosevelt wanted to bring together several service associations to boost U.S. military morale and bring some of the comforts of home to the front. Those associations included the Salvation Army, Young Men's Christian Association, Young Women's Christian Association, National Catholic Community Services, National Travelers Aid Association, and the National Jewish Welfare Board.

Together, they formed the USO.

2. They work with tons of celebrities, but...

Mark Wahlberg, Gary Sinise, and Scarlett Johansson have all donated their time to visit deployed troops and have toured bases overseas — which we think is badass.

But back in the 1940s, many celebrities acted as waiters for deployed troops and, sometimes, enjoyed a dance or two with their favorite Marine, sailor, or soldier.

Bette Davis doing her part at New York City's famed USO the Stage Door Canteen .

3. Their outstanding outreach

With more than 200 location worldwide, the not-for-profit organization has catered to the needs of roughly seven million service members and their families. Currently, there are four USO centers located in Afghanistan that average more than 25,000 visitors per month.

4. USO is mobile

In 1942, mobile USO canteens (which were, basically, trucks with generators) toured throughout the 48 contiguous states. These trucks carried screens, projectors, and speakers to play the popular films and records of the time. In 2017, Mobile USO delivered programs and services to 26 states, covering 50,000 miles and impacted more than two million service members and their families.

To those who work at the USO as volunteers, we salute you.