USO Kadena delivers big time with Operation Holiday Happiness

USO Kadena delivers big time with Operation Holiday Happiness

by Lisa Wease
USO Kadena

Kadena Air Base, OKINAWA, Japan. USO Okinawa centers continue to navigate the current global pandemic through innovative programming while fulfilling the mission of connecting service members to family, home, and country. Every year USO centers all over the world come together in December to celebrate the holiday season through numerous festive programs and events, this year they will look a little different.

When the airmen, sailors, and soldiers of Kadena Air Base and surrounding installations expressed their concerns for long-term separation and missing home connections; USO Kadena jumped at the opportunity to provide a connection to loved ones far away. Operation Holiday Happiness is a festive holiday program that connects service members to their loved ones off island. The mission is simple; the family requests a personalized stocking to be delivered to their service member at their place of duty. Contents include holiday sweet treats, a personalized message and a framed photo from home. This simple gift reminds service members that they are never truly alone, even if stationed thousands of miles away.

In Okinawa there have been several challenges navigating the COVID pandemic and the long-term separation has played a critical role in the morale of our service members.

“I have firsthand experience with separation, as I grew up in the military community for 22 years,” Keiko Brantley, Center Operations Specialist at USO Kadena, said. “The amount of love you feel knowing you are cared for and thought of while separated sparks so much joy. We are hoping this new program brings that joy to service members who are away from friends and family this holiday season.”

USO Okinawa Area Director Phil VanEtten reiterated the sentiment.

“The stocking program provides a unique twist to the way the USO connects our service members to family, home, and country,” VanEtten said. “Loved ones from back home can request (on-line) for the USO to drop off a holiday stocking. It lets the service member know that someone back home is thinking about him/her during this holiday period. We hope this really brightens their day.”

Thinking about service members, remaining mission capable and adapting to the ever-changing needs throughout the pandemic has been on the forefront of the USO mission in Okinawa. As the USO will soon celebrate it’s 80th birthday in early 2021, the mission over eight decades continues to connect service members and bring happiness to their lives regardless of where the military takes them.

Operation Holiday Happiness is just one of many holiday programs provided by USO Kadena. The team and volunteers are also working to boost morale through various programs across the installation including: Wishful Wednesdays, Holiday Waffles with Elf, Film Fridays featuring Home Alone, and Christmas Day Desserts are just a few of the programs that are sure to please. Moreover, the team at USO Kadena is just one of six centers on island working to bring holiday cheer to the military population on island.

Program details for Operation Holiday Happiness as well as all other holiday programs can be found at http://Okinawa.USO.org. If you would like to request a stocking to be delivered to your service member at Kadena Air Base, Camp Shields or Torii Station please visit http://Okinawa.USO.org/OperationHolidayHappiness. To contribute to the USO mission and volunteer your time to support our service members visit Okinawa.USO.org/KadenaConnects

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