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La Crosse USO provides stress relief for military

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) -- - Airports are used by America's military men and women every day.

The United Service Organizations aims to serve military members by keeping them connected to their families and their homes, throughout their service to the nation.

"The USO is kind of the soldiers' VIP lounge," said Elizabeth Hazlett, director of operations USO La Crosse. 

Tennessee Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Samuel Grubb said the service takes the edge off.

"It gives you a taste of home," Grubb said. "We just got off the plane so it's a place to decompress and get the jet lag off until you move on to your next location."

Hazlett said the service doesn't take much.  

"We make sure they have snacks and beverages," Hazlett said. "We try to offer some kind of programming for them whether it's Wi Fi, video games or reading libraries." 

Today, Hazlett brought two furry little friends to come and help out. 

"We have brought in our USO dogs for a little R&R for the soldiers," Hazlett said. "They provide a little bit of stress release before the soldier's training at Fort McCoy." 

She said these dogs give soldiers an irresistible face to interact with.

"The reactions that we get are absolutely precious," Hazlett said. 

The USO has been around for 77 years and provides support services all the way from the combat zone to the airport lounge.

Service members far and wide said the support means everything. 

"Even though we are in the dirt and in the field and getting all nitty gritty, it's that nice little escape for just a brief moment. It really boosts our morale," said Capt. Eric Hurtado, commander of the Fort McCoy recruiting company. 

Spc. Kendal Fitzgerald of the U.S. Army said it provides a fresh mindset before heading back out on the job.

"If you walk into a stressful situation already stressed that doesn't make anything better," Fitzgerald said. "It gives you time to sit down, relax, and calm down." 

Hazlett said these services are a simple way to heal the scar, war can leave on a person. 

"Combat really changes a person when they get into that environment," Hazlett said. "They never come back quite the same."

She said the USO provides the necessary comfort and a thank-you. 

"They are protecting our freedoms and the American way of life," Hazlett said. "They are doing all of these great things for us. Somebody needs to take care of them."

On Monday, the USO will be having a drive-up, drop-off donation drive outside the La Crosse Center.

All donations will go toward the USO mobile unit to keep troops comfortable as they head over to train at Fort McCoy. 

Local USO officials said they are always looking for volunteers to help out. 

Visit www.usowisconsin.org for more information. 


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