USS Theodore Roosevelt Sailors Say Thank You to the USO With More Than Just Words

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Photo Credit: USO Guam

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USO Guam team members are dedicated to supporting service members during the coronavirus pandemic, regardless of the challenges.

U.S. Navy sailors stationed aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt donated more than $1,800 to USO Guam after an extended visit to the island of Guam in the midst of the COVID-19 global pandemic this past May.

Arriving on Guam on March 27, the USS Theodore Roosevelt Strike Group worked closely with Commander 7th Fleet, Joint Region Marianas, U.S. Naval Hospital Guam, Naval Base Guam and the government of Guam in order to isolate and quarantine the crew of USS Theodore Roosevelt in phases, in accordance with recommended Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention standards.

There, from the very beginning, was the USO.

“We strongly believe that our U.S. military is a force for good in this world,” Leigh L. Graham, USO Guam area director, said.

“As service members, their mission is an important one and war fighting, and the defense of our country, has to be on the very top of their minds. For this reason, our commander in chief 78 years ago, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, established the USO through Congress and separate from the Department of Defense, so Americans could show support for the morale of our service members while they maintain their focus on the defense of our country.”

What started as a fun way to commemorate a unique experience during a very exceptional deployment, the designing of ‘deployment T-shirts’ quickly became the way a large group of USS Theodore Roosevelt sailors chose to thank USO Guam’s local team.

“The sailors recognized the tremendous support being provided by Naval Base Guam and those all around the island, and were specifically awestruck by how selflessly the men and women of the USO dedicated themselves to the sailors each day during our unexpected stay,” said Lt. Cmdr. Ryan Yonkman, the maintenance officer of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron EIGHT (HSC-8) “Eightballers,” and an isolation location Officer in Charge (OIC).

“We unanimously agreed to donate all proceeds [from ‘deployment T-shirts’] to ‘USO Guam’ for all the amazing care and support they have provided for the TR’s crew. Once the sailors knew the project would benefit the local USO, the response and support were overwhelming.”

“It was so incredible,” Graham said when she learned of the donation. “We are unbelievably moved and humbled by this!”

“The sailors of USS Theodore Roosevelt have become part of the USO Guam family,” Graham said. “You and your crew are now forever part of our history, and a part of the fabric that makes us who we are. We will never forget your stay here on the island and the sense of purpose you brought to us in being able to support sailors in the greatest Navy on the planet!”

“None of us expected a deployment to look like this,” said Yonkman. “But the sailors of USS Theodore Roosevelt demonstrated incredible resiliency and resolve during an unprecedented period. Over the course of my time as an OIC in Guam, I realized how incredible it was that many of the almost 900 sailors with me had never seen each other or met each other, let alone worked together, yet they seamlessly came together during a difficult time to take care of one another and support their shipmates on and off the ship. The island of Guam and the USO were integral to that mission.”

“Thank you so much for this generous gift,” Graham said. “We promise to use it in a way that honors the ‘Big Stick’, by continuing to connect service members with family, home and country throughout their service to our nation. When the TR departs, you will take a part of our hearts with you, but when you return, we will likewise be looking forward to seeing you again.”

“Whether they realized it or not, all of the TR sailors benefited in some way from the actions of USO Guam’s family. We were just trying to give a little back to a team that gave so much,” continued Yonkman. “Thanks again for your tireless efforts and incredible support … until everyone comes home!”

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