President Franklin Delano Roosevelt founded the United Service Organizations (USO) in 1941. Its mission statement is simple: "The USO lifts the spirits of America's troops and their families."
In 1947, President Harry Truman gave the organization an honorable discharge, but in 1951, it returned to duty when the United States entered the Korean War. The history of the organization and its multiple programs-including care packages to deployed members of the military-can be found on its website.
Thanks to the Herculean efforts of Bob Hope, most Americans my age-military or not-grew to appreciate the year-round efforts of the USO. Hope performed in 1941 for the organization at a stateside airfield, but in 1943, he took a cast of celebrities to Africa, Sicily and England to entertain those deployed overseas. He did more than 200 USO performances, but it was the 35 consecutive years of Christmas shows-many of them nationally televised-that captured my attention.
Bob Hope died in 2003 at the age of 100, but the tradition of buoying the spirit of our troops during the holiday season lives on. Unfortunately, it doesn't garner the type of publicity it deserves.