President's farewell message to USO of North Carolina partners and supporters

Over the last 10 years we have been on a journey together. Many of you have been on this journey, supporting us the entire time of my tenure and many are just starting. Regardless, the passion, dedication and commitment each of you, individually and collectively, have given to the USO of North Carolina is extraordinarily special and greatly appreciated by our Board of Directors and staff across the state.

As we reflect back over the 10 years, you can be proud of all that has been accomplished – all with one focus – to care for and connect our military service members and their families through critical and essential programs and services.

In 2009, the USO of North Carolina operated four centers – two airport locations and two base-focused. Today, we are in the midst of opening our 12th location at Seymour Johnson AFB and looking at potential for additional locations.

In 2009 we served about 250,000; today our service connections are pushing 600,000.

In 2009, we were limited in our scope of programs, mainly focused on airport lounges and deployment and homecomings. We were not yet unified in our approach to a statewide support initiative, often focused on individual locations. Today, we are unified. I see our partners, supporters, staff and volunteers “cross-leveling” and surging to meet needs of our service members and their families across the state.

Throughout that growth period, we saw the need to identify by regions as our area staff members were delivering support beyond a center. Today we are known as Coastal, Triangle, Piedmont and Sandhills Areas to better reflect the extend of our support to the military.

Today, we are providing critical and, in some cases, lifesaving or changing programs – planned at the state and executed in our area locations. This includes resiliency programs for warriors, their spouses, and families; STEM/STEAM seminars, transition assistance, financial literacy, educational program and local community connection coffees, dinners and story time sessions. Many of you help our volunteers and staff to provide these services, often giving your time and treasure.

I am extremely proud of how we launched our Honors Support Team at RDU Airport and subsequently incorporated the dignified returns and assistance to our fallen and their families at the Charlotte Douglas International Airport as well. This vital service comforts those who are grieving the loss of a loved one and helps the casualty assistance office and others cope with the challenges associated with this mission. You have made it possible for us to be there when needed with a hug and comforting smile.

Our North Carolina supporters and corporate partners are making a true impact on those who serve. Most recently, Harris Teeter’s Support Our Troops campaign broke record numbers. We can’t announce just yet - but stay tuned!

Stuffing parties, bike builds, drives, and collective donations from our local friends, groups, and corporate partners have helped provide budget-relieving care packages or other needed items for the military over the years.

Collectively, you helped us “lift the spirits" of our military and their families. Whether through delivering a surprise birthday cake to a service member or holding monthly Story Times with surprise readers or “princesses,” you made it possible for us to support them.

As I depart to join another great military nonprofit – the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, I take with me the memories and experience of your commitment to our forces that will allow me to engage better and, hopefully, bring the Society’s programs back to North Carolina.

I greatly appreciate and am humbled by the several farewell receptions you and our staff gave me. It was tough to do given my admiration for what you do every day.

Some heard my story about my favorite Army Division – the 8th Inf. Div – where I grew from a 2nd Lt. to a battery commander Capt. in the late 70’s and early 80’s. In World War II, when a German general surrendered to the 8 ID commander, he asked for the American commander’s credentials – dirty, tired and looking like the Soldiers he led, the general turned to his Soldiers and told the German – “These are my credentials.” As I leave, I am comforted in knowing that YOU ARE OUR CREDENTIALS!

You are the Force Behind the Forces. Thank you all.

John Falkenbury President and CEO
USO of North Carolina

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