Statement by Edward A. Powell, President/CEO, USO World Headquarters

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The following is a statement by Edward A. Powell, President/CEO, USO World Headquarters:

                     If you really want to help

As we celebrate this holiday season, thousands of American service members will be on duty, far removed from their families and friends. While the war on terrorism continues, Iraq and Afghanistan still draw the biggest headlines. But don't forget our forces -- active component, National Guard, and Reserve -- keeping peace in the Balkans and in the Pacific; serving on ships at sea; and holding down posts in Korea, Germany, Japan -- so many places, so far from home.

Of course, it's always tough for families to be separated. But when it happens during the holidays, it's that much more difficult to take. Many of us have been there, done that. Sometimes those occasions stick with us because of the pain of separation. But often we remember them because of something special -- some extra effort -- that made that holiday memorable.

As the holidays arrive this year, the USO strives to provide that something extra to make it more cheerful on the front lines. Throughout the military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, the American public has held fast to the idea that it is acceptable to debate the pros and cons of political decisions, while offering unequivocal support for the men and women who have volunteered to serve in the military.

Our supporters -- and we rely on the generosity of donors -- have allowed us to open new USO centers around the world and continue to expand our programs and services. For more than 66 years, corporate and citizen donors have given to the USO so we can continue to support the young men and women who risk their futures in order to ensure ours. Despite changing political opinions, that support continues.

The USO makes it easy for each of us to say thanks and to share our thoughts and prayers with those on duty this holiday season, defending freedom and advancing the cause of peace on earth. We, and they, need your help.

When I meet our service members, I wonder how they do what they do, far from home, family and friends, working tirelessly for hours on end. I try to learn about them: where they're from; their lives; their children; their families. Those of us at the USO -- our staff of about 300 and more than 25,000 volunteers -- see them every day; and for all we try to do for them, offering the comforts of home, we also consistently deliver the message that their country loves them and that we hold them in our hearts. Help us make this holiday season special by providing them with a little bit of home away from home.

Give the "gift of home" this season. And, have a happy and safe holiday -- no matter where you are.

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Audrey Laricchia
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