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A Place Not So Far From Home

Actor Gary Sinise hits the stage to perform for troops and military families at U.S. Coast Guard Base Kodiak. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis

When we think of our troops serving in remote locations, far from the comforts of home, we typically envision them in the desert on the frontlines of war but that isn’t always the case.

Countless troops serve our nation right here on the home front, including the thousands of Guardsmen and military families stationed on the small island of Kodiak in Alaska, home to one of the largest U.S. Coast Guard bases in the world.  I recently visited the island with USO tour veteran Gary Sinise and his band, The Lt. Dan Band, and discovered that you don’t have to live in a foreign land to feel far from home.

“Alaska isn’t another country, but sometimes it feels like it is”

From our first stop in Anchorage to our last stop in Kodiak we heard over and over how much troops and their families appreciated Gary Sinise and the Lt. Dan Band’s USO visit and how much it meant to them.  “We never get any famous people here, it’s just too far,” said one military spouse, who explained how much she missed just being able to attend a concert.  The men and women stationed in Alaska may not be serving overseas or in combat zones, but it doesn’t mean they aren’t missing some of the same comforts of home as those who are.   When a celebrity volunteer like Gary Sinise drops by to say thank you and deliver a high-energy, family-friendly USO show, it lets them know that America recognizes their service comes at a price and appreciates their sacrifice.

(L-R) Medal of Honor recipient Drew Dix, actor Gary Sinise and Capt. Bill Deal, commanding officer of Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak, pose for a photo with the crews of the air station. U.S. Coast Guard Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Jonathan Klingenberg.

Sometimes it’s the simplest things that make the biggest differences.  Petty Officer 3rd Class David Call, who escorted our group for most of our time in Kodiak, pointed out,  “What I miss the most is being able to get in my car and drive.”Kodiak hosts less than 100 miles of drivable road, and when you’re used to hopping in your car to relax or clear your mind the open highway can become as welcome a sight as a good friend.  That’s why, no matter what it is our troops are missing or wherever they serve the USO and partners like Gary Sinise and TriWest Healthcare Alliance – who help to fund many of the Gary Sinise and the Lt. Dan Band tours – are there for them. While the USO may not be able to bring the open road to our men and women in uniform, like Petty Officer Call, we can bring them a good time and some memories to last a lifetime.

Petty Officer 3rd Class David Call, who can be seen as part of the Weather Channel Series “Coast Guard Alaska,” provides medical support to a 5-month-old baby girl. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Charly Hengen

To see a glimpse of the action tune into The Weather Channel’s hit series “Coast Guard Alaska,” which airs Wednesdays at 9/8c and follow the men and women serving at Kodiak as they train, work, and tackle the harsh environment of rugged Alaska.  USO and Gary Sinise fans can also look forward to a special USO themed episode in season three.  To learn more about the USO and how you can support our forward deployed troops, military families and our ill, injured and wounded warriors please visit us online at www.uso.org.  - Sharee Posey, USO Senior Communications Specialist


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