40 years later, still serving

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Kevin Wallace
  • 436th AW Public Affairs
More than 40 years after serving in the jungles of Vietnam, Dave Wilson, a retired Airman and avid United Services Organization volunteer was honored with the USO's first volunteer of the year award.

Mr. Wilson was presented the award during the USO World Gala ceremony in Washington D.C. Sept. 21.

For Mr. Wilson, the months after Sept. 11, 2001 were a heavy burden, he said. He felt he needed to do something. That December, he realized his tour of duty in Vietnam never ended - just went dormant for a few decades.

As America's youth were raising their hands, eagerly volunteering to serve their country, so was Mr. Wilson.

"Back in the '60s, I had many experiences with the USO," he said. "They were always there - in Vietnam, volunteering to make us feel better. After September 11th, I figured I was too old to serve in the military, but knew I could make a world of difference with the USO."

So, like the many 17- and 18-year-olds around the nation, he too raised his hand. Since then, Mr. Wilson has voluntarily deployed to Germany once and into the South-West Asia area of responsibility three times.

Along with volunteering for many fundraisers and greeting servicemembers as they return from deployments, Mr. Wilson dedicated four to five days a week at the USO lounge in the Dover AFB air passenger terminal.

In light of everything he does for the men and women of the U.S. forces, it's no wonder he was honored with the award, said Joan Cote, Director USO Delaware.

"After being with the USO for almost 17 years, I felt pretty confident that Dave's achievements over the past four years would be hard, if not impossible, to surpass when measured against so many other fantastic volunteers," said Ms. Cote. "It seems Dave has the well-being of our military men, women and families on his mind around the clock."

Mr. Wilson drives an hour each way to fill his shift at the passenger terminal lounge, comes at all hours of the day and night to honor America's fallen heroes during dignified transfers, supports every fundraiser and special event and deployed four times, she said. "He is the kind of volunteer every center wishes they could duplicate!"

Still, Mr. Wilson is modest about all the 'hoopla.' He said, "I just want to make life easier for the troops - the way people made life easier for me in Vietnam."

However, for Ms. Cote and Team Dover, Mr. Wilson is the gem of the Eagle and Liberty Wings.

"We are extremely thrilled and humbled that Dave was selected as the first-ever USO Worlwide Volunteer of the Year," said Ms. Cote. "His dedication and commitment to our military heroes is a shining example and representative of so many incredible USO volunteers around the world. We know the Dover Team appreciates him as much as we do!"