Mr. President, since its inception, the United Service Organization what we all know as the USO has worked to bring a piece of home to the members of our armed forces wherever they may find themselves. From Bob Hope's legendary tours to the latest cyber-canteens that allow service members to stay in contact with family and friends via email, the USO works tirelessly to provide simple pleasures to those who venture into harm's way.
As the population of the armed forces has changed, so too have the services offered by the USO. Today, this great organization provides childcare services for kids whose parents are deployed, travel assistance for the family of wounded service members, prepaid phone cards, the ever-popular celebrity tours, and countless other services for our troops and their families.
Recently, my staff and the staff of Senator Kennedy had very close contact with the personnel and services of the USO through its New England offices in Boston. Several weeks ago, our staff was contacted by the family of an American soldier who had become gravely ill in Iraq. She had been evacuated to the American hospital at Landstuhl, Germany, where doctors determined she was near death. She was so ill that her doctors ordered her medically retired, making her daughter eligible for retirement benefits. But that reclassification also meant that the Army could no longer pay for her family's travel to Germany to be at her bedside. That decision, made for all the right reasons, had the unintentional and regrettable consequence of bringing only more grief to a family already grappling with the prospect of losing their loved one.
And that is when USO-New England and its director, Alice Harkins, got involved. When the situation was explained to her, Alice replied simply, "We're going to do this. This is why we exist." And, as promised, the USO-New England found the money and paid for the soldier's family to travel to Germany.
Alice Harkins and her capable staff at USO-New England represent the best of us. Through their vigorous efforts, their determination, and their simple desire to help those who serve in our military, they inspire us all. They are people who recognize what's right, and who show their love of country and their love for those who serve with deeds as well as words.
The USO receives no financial support from the U.S. Government. Its success is due to the countless volunteers who contribute time and energy for the men and women of the Armed Forces in times of war and peace and the generosity of sponsors who make its operation possible.
I know I express the sentiment of the Senate and current and former members of the Armed Forces when I say thank you, USO, for your efforts to bring a slice of home to those on the frontlines and for remembering their families while they are away. We should all aspire to make such a contribution. Fortunately, the people of the USO, people like Alice Harkins, do. And we can all be grateful.