United Service Organization volunteer finds purpose through work

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) - An area non-profit that benefits U.S. troops held a donation drive at the La Crosse Center Monday.

Often times military troops traveling to Fort McCoy may have to wait at the La Crosse Regional Airport. The United Service Organization provides troops with food and beverages while they go through the on-boarding and off-boarding process. 

Organization volunteers collected donations at the La Crosse Center from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. The truck is filled with everything from comfort food to personal items like razors.

One USO volunteer in particular is finding healing through the organization.

Heather Morales lost her husband after he hanged himself in 2007. 

"We were basically shunned from the military community because it was a suicide."

Morales's husband served in the U.S. military and toured in Iraq. 

"I never in a million years thought he would have done that, he was the strongest person I knew."

Life was a lot different after that tragic night 11 years ago.

"A lot of people felt he was an embarrassment to the national guard for killing himself."

Heather is choosing to use her experience as  a way to bring light to a community often times facing dark battles many of us will never have to fight. 

"I've been with the USO for three years and it's proven to be awesome therapy."

She says volunteering with the United Service Organization is helping her gain back a sense of her military identity. 

"And now being able to give back and know the soldiers can be so thankful for a can of foot powder and beef jerky the smile and thank you for them is payment enough."

Rain or snow, warm or cold, Heather says she's hoping the donation drive will be the start of many in the future, as she continues to find comfort after the loss of her husband. 

"So standing out here for a couple of hours is nothing compared to what our guys and gals are going through overseas."

More than 2,000 pounds of food have been donated and more than $1,000 has been collected. 

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