LOS ANGELES – As we enter the Season of Thanksgiving, many of us think of the things we are most thankful for. Often it’s family and friends, a good and safe place to live, or even having someone who loves us. Yet while we’re counting our blessings, how many of us thank the men and women who wear the uniform of our nation, who are willing to put their lives on the line to protect our freedom?
It seems as if every day there is a new story chronicling how our nation has failed our troops. We read about the rising suicide rate, not only of members of our armed forces, but of their spouses and children. We are told that there are countless military families with major financial challenges, with many living on food stamps and in dingy apartments. We hear the stories of reservists and National Guard members returning home after multiple deployments overseas, only to find that their jobs are gone and that they lack the skills necessary to find an equivalent new job. Many families fracture because of these pressures. Others stick together but find themselves one paycheck away from being homelessness. Some have it even worse.
In Southern California, it is often the Bob Hope USO that helps raise the spirits of our troops. On Tuesday, for example, more than 200 young Marines who will be deployed across the globe received an early Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings at the Bob Hope Hollywood USO at Los Angeles International Airport.
Most of these Marines will not be able to have Thanksgiving with their family this year. And so, the Bob Hope USO became their family for a day. Joining the USO was a group of patriotic companies including Farmers Insurance Group, several airport hotels and even the Los Angeles Dodgers and Kings who came to their local USO to say “thank you” to the troops in a very tangible way.
Hall of Famer Tommy Lasorda spent more than two hours talking to these future heroes individually and collectively, from the stage and in small groups. Tommy was born eight days before Babe Ruth hit his record-breaking 60th home run for the iconic 1927 New York Yankees. He grew up in Norristown, PA, a place filled with traditional American values,
On Tuesday, the 87-year old former Dodger manager made it clear that although he “bleeds Dodger Blue,” he considers America’s Armed Forces the greatest team in the world. “I want you to make us all proud to be Americans by the way you conduct yourselves when you put on the uniform of the greatest country in the world, the United States of America,” Tommy told the Marines. “I also want you to know that the people of America support you 100 percent in everything you do to protect our country, wherever you go,” he said. Despite the years, Tommy clearly hasn’t lost a step when it comes to inspiring an audience.
The troops were inspired in a very different manner by six young women from the Los Angeles Kings Ice Crew, who cheerfully signed copies of their 2015 calendars for each and every Marine in attendance and took photos with all who asked.
Finally, the Marines had a spectacular turkey dinner, including a piece of apple or cherry pie from Polly’s Pies.
Bringing home to the troops for the holidays is just one way the Bob Hope USO raises the spirits of troops at its local centers at LAX, Ontario, Orange County and Palm Springs that will serve more than 150,000 troops in the next year. But in addition to the work done at airport centers, special events in the community are excellent ways to raise the spirits of the troops.
For example, next Monday, November 24 will mark the first-ever “Bob Hope USO Military Monday” at the LA Auto Show at the Los Angeles Convention Center. The auto show is donating 1,000 tickets so that troops can attend the event, which is rapidly becoming the world’s premier auto show. In addition, the Greater Los Angeles New Car Dealers Association is providing bus transportation for troops to and from the event.
This significant effort to support the troops has been spearheaded by LA Auto Show General Manager Terri Toennies and Director of Sales & Operations Denise Ronayne. “We believe this is the first year of what will be an enduring partnership to support and honor our troops, because we are so thankful for everything they do for us,” Denise said.
There will be a live stage show in honor of the troops, and K-EARTH will be entertaining the Bob Hope USO Military Monday crowd for two hours at the South Hall Plaza entrance to the Convention Center. LA’s top-rated radio personality, the great Gary Bryan of K-EARTH 101, will also be there to support the troops, as he has throughout his exceptional career.
“Our early Thanksgiving Dinner and Bob Hope USO Military Monday are terrific ways to kick-off the holiday season for our troops,” said Bob Kurkjian, executive director of the Bob Hope USO, which relies entirely on private donations to fund its programs. Each year, the Bob Hope USO serves more than 130,000 members of the military and their families at locations throughout Southern California. The Bob Hope USO has only eight employees to run its four centers, with more than 600 patriotic Americans serving as volunteers to support the troops. “We think this is the perfect way to convey to our troops the gratitude of the American people,” Bob added.
Members of the public may donate tickets to the troops for the LA Auto Show or contribute directly to programs supporting the troops at bobhopeuso.org.
“There are many great ways of being thankful to the troops during the holidays,” Bob said. “At the Bob Hope USO, we are carrying on the legacy Mr. Hope created to support the troops. One way people can support our troops is by contributing to your local USO at bobhopeuso.org,” he said.
Between bites of his turkey dinner on Tuesday, a young Marine said, “It means so much to know that people are behind us. We are thankful for all the support that the American people give us. It’s a lot easier deploying outside the United States when we know that the folks back home are pulling for us.”
During this season of Thanksgiving, could we each listen to our heart and find a meaningful way to be thankful for the sacrifices our troops make on our behalf? It would be a powerful way to begin pulling our nation back together by emphasizing what unites us rather than what divides us. And in the process, it just might put us on the road to recapturing the true Spirit of America.
Published: Nov. 20, 2014 - Volume 13 - Issue 32