State Senator Mary Lazich (R-New Berlin) represents parts of four counties: Milwaukee, Waukesha, Racine, and Walworth. Her Senate District 28 includes New Berlin, Franklin, Greendale, Hales Corners, Muskego, Waterford, Big Bend, the town of Vernon and parts of Greenfield, East Troy, and Mukwonago. Senator Lazich has been in the Legislature for more than a decade. She considers herself a tireless crusader for lower taxes, reduced spending and smaller government.
Think of the USO and images of the legendary Bob Hope entertaining our troops overseas during the holidays quickly come to mind.
During the past 34 years, Wisconsin has operated its only USO office at the Milwaukee County War Memorial Center in downtown Milwaukee. Like the more than 130 centers worldwide, the Milwaukee USO has been offering much-needed recreation programs and boosting morale for our brave military. Sadly, the Milwaukee USO is now in danger of closing.
The USO is a private, nonprofit organization that supports our troops by providing morale, welfare and recreation-type services, as the USO puts it, “extending a touch of home to the military.” Military members and their families visit worldwide USO centers more than 5.3 million times every year.
Elizabeth Geary, Affiliate Liaison of the USO World Headquarters, informed the Milwaukee USO that it failed to meet established Standards of Excellence (SOE) for each USO facility by a November 2008 review date. New criteria established by the national organization require USO affiliates to provide a center for troops and their families, and to increase their fundraising and community outreach efforts. A small office maintained at the War Memorial is the only space the Milwaukee USO has. Additional space is unavailable at the War Memorial, so the USO would have to move to stay open.
The Milwaukee USO Board has rescinded a vote taken during October 2008 to dissolve its charter and is now requesting additional time for the Milwaukee USO office to meet and adhere to SOE’s.
One of my constituents brought this issue to my attention, concerned that the Milwaukee USO office is being forced to close. My constituent met her husband at a USO dance 42 years ago, and is now worried that future Wisconsin military personnel and their families will be unable to benefit from the many valuable programs and services provided by the USO.
Closing this important facility would be devastating to the brave men and women we entrust with our national security who greatly deserve our undying support. The timing couldn’t be worse. About 3,400 members of the Wisconsin Army National Guard will be deployed to Iraq with the 32nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team by next spring.
I have written a letter, co-signed by many of my legislative colleagues in Madison, to members of the Wisconsin Congressional Delegation, requesting that the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate take the necessary action to ensure that the Milwaukee USO office, the only USO office in the state of Wisconsin, remains open to serve our military, their families, and veterans. We strongly urge our Congressional delegation to assist the Milwaukee USO in meeting and adhering to national SOE’s to prevent its closing and secure its operation that will continue to benefit Wisconsin military members and their families.
If you would like to write a letter of support or make a contribution to the Milwaukee USO that operates completely on donations, letters and donations may be sent to USO of Wisconsin Inc., Milwaukee County War Memorial Center, 750 N. Lincoln Memorial Drive, Suite 303, Milwaukee, WI 53202-4018.