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The passion of service to our troops in a war that’s not over

Pennington Walker_600My job is about passion.

It's a passion to lead. It's a passion to succeed. And it's a passion to give people a little bit better of a day – or even just a moment – amid some of the biggest challenges of their lives.

I'm the manager at USO Kandahar, one of seven remaining USO centers in Afghanistan. Thought that war was over? A lot of other Americans do, too. But we've still got thousands of U.S. troops serving in harm's way every day. And when those men and women need a break, a nap or a place to call home, they come to our center.

The draw for me was simple. I served 28 years in the Army before retiring nearly five years ago as a sergeant major. I was used to taking care of my fellow soldiers. Now, I see some of the same guys who I served with come through our center's doors.

The USO has been around for 73 years. We were with troops during World War II, we went to Korea and Vietnam in the decades after that, and we were there for both wars in Iraq and the ongoing conflict where I'm stationed now. Our organization has more than 160 locations around the world and more than 30,000 interactions with troops every single day. And we just built two state-of-the-art USO centers in the Washington, D.C.-area for troops recovering from serious injuries.

Ever get an email from a buddy serving in a remote location? Ever Skype with a brother or a cousin in who was in the military overseas? Ever see troops in a war zone on the jumbotron at an NFL game, or playing video games remotely against celebrities? If so, chances are it was at a USO center.

Outside our center's doors, it's still a war zone. Inside our doors, it's their home away from home.

Our team of eight total staffers runs a center that's available to more than 20,000 troops every day. These troops deal with tough situations – occasionally even life-or-death choices – every day. I don't usually see the emotions they're dealing with when they walk through the door.

But eventually, I see those feelings rise to the surface. I hear their voices quiver in their phone calls home. I hear their passion in the United Through Reading Room, where they can record themselves reading a children's book and send the recording back to their kids in the States.

And I see the high fives and tears of joy from some of the toughest people you'll ever meet when they watch their children being born via a Skype call made on USO-provided Wi-Fi.

I've been in their shoes. I understand the sacrifice they make. And that's why I am so passionate about being by their side when they walk through those USO doors.

Source: http://thegrio.com/2014/05/24/the-passion-of-service-to-our-troops-in-a-war-thats-not-over/


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