Delaware General Assembly honors USO Delaware

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Aaron J. Jenne
  • 436th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

The USO Delaware, headquartered on Dover AFB, was recognized by the Delaware General Assembly who signed a resolution honoring the organization’s 25th birthday.


Several members of Team Dover attended the event including Lt. Col. Aaron Oelrich and Tech Sgt. Edward Perez, 436th Operations Support Squadron commander and Air Traffic Control and Landing Systems section chief respectively.


“It was humbling to see the outpouring of support from Delaware, Dover and the broader population,” Oelrich said. “I saw congressmen and senators come up to us and say ‘thank you for what you have done and continue to do for Delaware and our nation.’ They appreciate the men and women of Dover AFB and realize that the USO is an extension that ministers to their needs.”


The USO operates out of more than 180 worldwide locations to support military members and their families by providing special programming, events and group support; connecting service members with their loved ones; and helping military members meet their goals as they transition out of the military and begin their civilian careers.


Perez, who came from Japan about one year ago, said the USO played a vital role in his career by providing a smooth transition for him and his family when they arrived in Japan.


“I got to stand before the Delaware General Assembly and share my experience with the USO,” Perez said. “I have always visited them whenever I got the chance, but my appreciation for them really started in Japan, when they offered a friendly face, spoke English and helped us find our way in a foreign country. Now, I do all I can to give back to the organization that has helped me and my family so much during my service.”


The organization’s gravitas is no less significant within the U.S.


In fact, the USO Delaware supports one of the Department of Defense’s most somber functions, the dignified transfer, said Yolanda Bottorf, USO Delaware operations programs manager.


“We have a unique mission here,” Bottorf said. “We get to support families through one of the most painful experiences in life, the loss of a loved one. We’re with them every step of the way; from notification through their return home.”


The entire process from family notification, travel to Dover AFB and their return home generally lasts at most 72 hours, Bottorf said. There are a lot of plans to be made, and the USO helps wherever they can.


Organization volunteers help them through security to quiet airport waiting areas to allow them to grieve, Bottorf explained. Faithful to the USO mission, “always by your side,” they stay with family members from the moment they enter the airport till they board their plane, all the way to Dover and back home.


Bottorf said the USO Delaware provides more than 90 percent of the food supplied for the Fisher House located on Dover AFB where families of the fallen are given the privacy to grieve their loss and comfortably lodge free of charge for the duration of their stay.


The USO Delaware also coordinates with military liaisons from every branch posted around the world to make sure every DT is properly supported.


“The USO Delaware has been around since 1991, and in that time we haven’t missed a single DT,” said Bruce Kmiec, USO Delaware director. “We are prepared to never make an error. It takes awesome commitment from our volunteers and supporters. With their help we’re able to provide for these families as they grieve.”


Kmiec, a retired Air Force master sergeant, leads the three-person staff and coordinates more than 150 volunteers across the state.


“We have an awesome responsibility,” Kmiec said. “We are trusted to support our military in a variety of ways. That’s our passion. You never know the impact a simple act of kindness can have. When I retired from the military I devoted myself to the organization that helped me so much in my career. It is an extreme honor to be able to give back to the men and women of our armed forces.”


For more information about the USO or to inquire about volunteer opportunities, visit a local center, email or call (302) 677-2491.