How do you make a servicemember happy? How about making him or her feel appreciated! Some free seats at a Boston Bruins game might be just the ticket!
I’ve been a USO volunteer for a few years now, and I have to say that it’s been the single, most rewarding thing I’ve ever done in my life. If I was independently wealthy (or actually just “financially able”, I wouldn’t have to be wealthy), I’d give up my day job and just volunteer for the rest of my life.
For anyone who isn’t familiar with the USO, it’s the United Service Organizations. A non-profit organization that in a nutshell aims to boost the morale of our servicemembers and their families. Most of the time I do regular shifts at Boston’s Logan airport USO lounge – this is a hospitality lounge at the airport where servicemembers and their families can rest and relax in between flights, or if they’re waiting to collect someone arriving at the airport.
Our lounge is only small compared to some airport USO lounges, but that’s mostly because Boston isn’t a military hub. Places like Atlanta and Chicago, for example, have huge numbers of military numbers in the region, and tend to be major hubs for incoming and outgoing military flights. Not so with Boston, so our needs are served by our small lounge. Well, except sometimes in the winter when the snowstorms shut down flights and folk get stranded….then we’re sometimes in trouble!
But I digress…….Occasionally I help out at USO events too. I’ve packed care packages to send overseas, helped our wounded warriors at a Military Paralympics event, and represented the USO at many Yellow Ribbon events. And another event that I help with each year is another really fun one – Military Appreciation Night, courtesy of Boston’s sports teams.
The Bruins and Celtics in particular tend to hold these nights every year, and they are very popular, as you can imagine! They take a lot of organizing and volunteer support to pull them off too. Our USO New England office only has 2 full time staff, and they are always ridiculously busy even without an event like this. So it can be bedlam when a big event gets thrown into the mix.
Anyway, last night was this year’s Military Appreciation Night, courtesy of our Stanley-Cup-holding-Boston-Bruins! We had hundreds of free tickets to dispatch to those lucky servicemembers who managed to get access to them, so I spent all afternoon and evening with a number of other volunteers as we organized everything, getting tickets ready for collection, and then giving them out in the crazy couple of hours before the game.
It was a bit hairy at times, but the overwhelming majority of folk were extremely nice, and were very pleased to be able to get free tickets. These three Marines, for instance!
What a fun night. Despite being a little nuts, it all went mostly smoothly, and everyone who came to collect tickets, thankfully managed to leave with tickets! And some extras arrived too – they hadn’t made the original quota, but we always have tickets that go uncollected. People always sign up for them, but for some reason don’t turn up on the night, so we tend to have extras left over. All we can do in those instances is have folk waiting at the office ready to take them at last minute. It was great to see a number of people be rewarded for happily waiting in the wings last night.
In case any of you are wondering, the Bruins pulled off a superb 4-3 win against the NJ Devils, making it an extra special night for our military servicemembers who were fortunate enough to make it to the game. Go to the “Military Thanks” tab under the video box to listen in while some of the Bruins members extend their thanks to our military.
The Bruins also made a local couple very happy this past Veterans Day weekend, surprising them with a visit from their son who was secretly home on R&R from his deployment in Afghanistan. Very sweet!
All in all, a fantastic evening last night though!