Entertainer Bob Hope was associated with charity and USO work long before the USO at LAX donned his name. An avid contributor to USO shows and charities throughout his long career, Bob Hope was perhaps one of the foremost supporters of US troops through his work with USO. In traveling to meet and entertain troops over the course of several wars, Bob Hope’s name became synonymous with promoting the mission that the United Service Organization was created to fulfill. The fact that his name was approved for use with only one USO in the world, only begins to shed light on the incredible volunteer effort and support to the US military that the Bob Hope USO at LAX provides.
Historically, the United Service Organizations were developed to increase the morale of American troops and to serve as a link to the American people. This simple objective has been the foundation behind numerous charitable efforts and causes under the umbrella of the USO. What was once an effort to bring celebrities and support to the troops in order to raise morale has now turned USO work into a multifaceted support system for troops and their families.
The nearly 4,000 sq. foot facility at LAX airport is so much more than a place for America’s travel weary troops to visit. The USO at LAX offers hot showers, a place to rest, movies, Cds, a library, overnight facilities, city resources, a 32 item menu (always including pizza) and Internet and phone access for troops to communicate with family and friends. These physical accommodations only begin to scratch the surface of what the USO at LAX offers America’s troops. Because what the Bob Hope USO at LAX promises to offer every visiting member of the U.S. military is something far more valuable: a piece of home. Open 24 hours a day, offering services at no cost, this independently funded facility is successful because of the time nearly 230 volunteers endlessly and selflessly provide, each week. A group comprised of senior officers, lawyers, teachers, mothers, fathers and policemen represents the perfect microcosm of a community in Los Angeles that is motivated to support and to give back to American troops.
Mike Teilmann, a retired US General, friend to the Hope family and current director of the USO at LAX, has played on a large part in turning the facility into one worthy of the Bob Hope name. In 2001, the USO, a quarter of its current size at its current location in the middle of LAX’s passenger terminal area, was nothing compared to the “home” it now represents for America’s troops.
When asked if Teilmann had any special accounts that were a good representation of what the Bob Hope USO means to troops passing through, his response was, “Yes. I have entire volumes of stories!” The Guest Book that is signed by troops who pass through the USO reveals accounts from soldiers arriving with the dirt from Afghanistan and Iraq still fresh on their uniforms. Troops are re-infused with feelings of safety and home. At times, remains pass through the USO and the darker side of what our troops put on the line each day for Americans is reflected in this somber reminder.
Whatever the account, phrases of extreme gratitude are overwhelmingly expressed. It is in these stories and in the faces of the troops that pass through the USO that the volunteers and businesses who donate time and money find rewards for their contributions. The gratitude these contributors feel must be the way Bob Hope felt in his tireless efforts with USO over decades. It certainly becomes obvious that the Bob Hope USO at LAX is an organization united in charity and befitting of the Bob Hope name.
– KIM WINTERNHEIMER