The USO’s Selfless Leadership

By COL Greg Gadson, AW2 Director

While speaking at the 2011 USO Leadership Conference, AW2 Director COL Greg Gadson spoke with AW2 Veteran Justin Widhalm who is now a USO Wounded Warrior Programs Manager at Fort Carson in Colorado.

Throughout my 20 year military career, I have been around the world in all kinds of conditions. As my surroundings changed, there always seemed to be one constant, even in Iraq—the USO. They were always where the Soldiers were at just the right time, with just the right thing. We knew we could count on them to help make things a little bit better.

It was this type of selfless leadership that I was proud to be able to recognize today as I spoke at the 2011 USO Leadership Conference. As I looked out at the nearly 100 USO leaders, I saw several faces I knew from my service and recovery. I was grateful to be able to thank them not only personally, but also for all the servicemembers and Families they support around the world.

While many people know about the USO, they might not realize that the USO expanded its focus to include wounded warriors and their Families. When I was recovering at Walter Reed, there was always someone at my door from the USO checking in on me, offering unconditional support—doing whatever it took to help. This type of community support is an incredibly important part of the re-integration process, and it makes all the difference when our wounded, ill, or injured Soldiers return home to their civilian communities. The USO is also part of the AW2 Community Support Network–working alongside other organizations around the country to support the long-term success of our wounded warriors.

Jack Flanagan, USO Senior Vice President of Operations, described his volunteers as a “goodness delivery team.” What a true statement. One AW2 Advocate told me her USO rep was, “Seamless. If I need help with one of my wounded Soldiers she’s who I call first—if she can’t help, she automatically finds the right person who can.” The Advocate added, “The USO never misses a beat.”

At the end of the day, it is about us all working together to provide the dignity and respect our wounded, ill, and injured servicemembers, Veterans, and their Families deserve. I appreciate the USO’s good work, and I challenge other community organizations to do what the USO does. Put the Soldier first.

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