While many Soldiers and family members enjoyed the free lunch and cupcakes offered on the United Service Organizations’ birthday event on Feb. 4, it was the behind-the-scenes volunteer action that really stood out.

With nearly 30,000 volunteers giving more than 1.5 million hours each year to our nation’s service members and their families, the USO has a deep history of being one of the most dedicated volunteer forces behind the military.

The more than 250 USO locations throughout the United States, Europe, Pacific and Southwest Asia are mostly run by volunteers, who serve the front desks, check in guests, work special events, assist with center activities, and help provide food, beverages and hospitality to Soldiers throughout the world. Whether at an airport providing a Soldier a place to sleep and contact his family between flights, or in garrison providing computer access and a place to socialize, the volunteers behind the USO are a devoted group of individuals whose only goal is to care for service members and their families.

“I’ve been volunteering (with the USO) for three years,” Espy Arreguin, volunteer and trainer with the Fort Hood USO, said. “I hadn’t worked in eight years and wanted something on my resume, so I started volunteering, but then I gave up on the whole working thing and just kept volunteering because I really liked it.”

“There’s so much that I like,” Arreguin continued when asked what her favorite thing about volunteering is. “I think it’s the interaction with other volunteers and the Soldiers. When they come in and they’re just having a bad day, and they need somebody to just hear them out, and then they leave with a smile.”

Becky Bender, another volunteer and trainer with USO Fort Hood, has been volunteering for 13 months. “The USO has given so much to my husband,” Bender said. “He has been all over the world, and that’s the one place he knows he can go to kind of relax between flights.”

With the addition of COVID-19 procedures, volunteers for the USO have been working harder than ever, but have taken it all in stride.

On Friday, the Fort Hood USO volunteers were in force, passing out free Chick-fil-A and cupcakes in a drive-thru event celebrating the 80th birthday of the USO.

“It was so much fun, glad I was able to be part of this amazing event and being part of the USO Fort Hood team!” Arreguin said.

For more information about becoming a volunteer for the USO, visit www.uso.org/take-action/volunteer.