The United Service Organizations of North Carolina (USO-NC), founded in 1941, is the lead organization charged with supporting military servicemen and women in our state. With five centers in North Carolina, USO-NC serves about 650,000 troops each year.
During his time in the military, Russell Peeler received comfort from the USO throughout his career, and, as a veteran, he wanted to assist soldiers locally. He began serving with the USO-NC of Charlotte, which operates a travel-based center at Charlotte Douglas Airport and provides a friendly, non-threatening place at the airport for traveling soldiers to relax, rejuvenate, and have travel issues resolved.
“I was looking to minister to fellow soldiers and their families. The airport is close by and there is a lot of flexibility in scheduling. It was an organization I was impacted positively by when I was on active duty. Each shift is different,” Russell says. “I primarily work at the airport greeting centers, keeping the food stocked, helping with travel plans and providing a friendly, non-threatening ear.”
In addition to travel centers at three airports in our state, USO-NC also performs dignified returns, serves troops and their families through centers at Fort Bragg and Jacksonville, provides care packages, assists with deployments and homecomings.
Beyond his service at the Charlotte travel center, Russell and his wife, Rachel, have assisted with Honor Flights, events that fly WWII veterans to Washington, D.C. to visit the WWII memorial. While these flights have been discontinued because of the age of veterans, Russell fondly remembers his work with the last flight.
“As the veterans came through security after returning from their day in D.C., they were welcomed by several hundred people creating a path in the upper concourse from security to airport exit,” Russell recalls.
“Flags provided by the Patriots Guard and a brass band also welcomed them. The veterans and they families were overwhelmed by the welcome home.
“We had the honor of talking to a 94 year old Air Force Colonel, Flight Nurse, and her husband. She flew many dangerous missions in the Pacific Theatre, caring for wounded soldiers. Her husband said, ‘I am so proud of my wife, her bravery and her service. The thing that I am most proud of is that she is 94 years old and she still has all of her own teeth!’”