Mass Exodus, Military Head Home for the Holiday Season

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Every year in December, military bases throughout the country empty as service members go on leave for the holiday season. The USO Illinois offers food, shelter, travel assistance and all the comforts of home to thousands of troops making their way home during the annual Holiday Mass Exodus. In Illinois, the USO supports this exodus from our Centers at Naval Station Great Lakes, the Rock Island Arsenal, and from the airports at O'Hare, Midway and the Quad Cities.

Beginning at 3 in the morning, volunteers and staff at Naval Station Great Lakes serve a hearty breakfast of eggs, bacon and pancakes to military and families leaving the base. By 11a.m., the Naval Station is empty and the USO’s at Midway and O'Hare airport are in full swing. This year, the USO at O'Hare served both breakfast and lunch to traveling military.

Thanks to the Elks Club, USO Terminal 2 also provided hundreds of sandwiches to traveling military. Tables in the terminals supported those with quick layovers and were stocked with snacks, treats and beverages as well as the helping hands and glowing smiles of USO volunteers. Special activities at O'Hare this year included a visit from Santa and the musical stylings of the USO Show Troupe. Based in New York City, the Show Troupe visited the O'Hare Airport Center in Terminal 3 to entertain service members and their families with renditions of today’s classic hits, such as Uptown Funk, and old patriotic favorites.

Midway Airport hosted hundreds of traveling military with food, places to sleep for overnight or delayed flights, and entertainment in the form of movies and video games. Although there is no center in the Quad Cities Airport, USO Rock Island staff and volunteers set up stations to deliver free toiletries, food and beverages to traveling military thanks to the support of the airport and surrounding donors.

The Richard A. Perritt Charitable Foundation supported Mass Exodus and USO Great Lakes through a donation of $50,000 allowing the USO to provide these services to military in each center. “The Richard A. Perritt Charitable Foundation has been a longtime supporter of the USO Illinois. With their help we were able to feed and give the comforts of home to thousands of military traveling over the holiday season,” said Jessica Dolan, USO Illinois VP of Development. “Their ongoing support and generous donations allow us to make traveling a little easier for many military members this holiday season.”

Thank you to the USO volunteers, donors and the Richard A. Perritt, MD Charitable Foundation for their support during the 2015 holiday season.

Published January 29, 2016

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