USO shows its stuff with variety of displays in halls of Congress
Stars and Stripes February 6, 2024
WASHINGTON — Probably the biggest attention-getter at a USO presentation at the House Cannon office building Tuesday was the presence of Miss America, Madison Marsh.
But the dogs were a close second.
Marsh, who graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy as a second lieutenant in June and was the first active-duty military officer to compete in the Miss America Pageant, was crowned Miss America on Jan. 14. One of her duties as the newly crowned pageant winner is partnering with the USO’s entertainment program as a representative of the Miss America program, which has a long history of collaboration with the USO.
Marsh said the military will allow her to continue as an active-duty officer while she serves in her role as Miss America.
“They will be putting me into a public-affairs, slash, recruiting position,” she said, “so that every time I do a Miss America event, I’m also recruiting for the military. They’ve given me, obviously, so many opportunities at the Air Force Academy and being a second lieutenant that I want to be able to share that and hopefully bring more people to join the best branch … the Air Force.”
Marsh said that being the first active-duty military person to win Miss America “allows young women to see that you can be anything, and you can define what it means to be a woman.”
For Marsh, wearing the two hats of Miss America and that of an active-duty officer allows her to demonstrate to others how to “dive into that role of leadership.”
The USO’s Chief Operating Officer Christopher Plamp, a retired Air Force pilot who flew A-10 Warthogs during his years in the military, said Tuesday’s event was a way to raise awareness of all that the USO does for military members and their families around the world.
“Congress created the charter for the USO many years ago,” Plamp said. “Actually, we are one of the very few congressionally chartered nonprofits” charged to raise morale among “all the men and women service members in today’s military. ... Congress asked us to do that, and so we’re back showing them how we do it.”
While admirers had their pictures taken with Marsh, others had their love tanks filled by interacting with therapy dogs from Maryland-based Warrior Canine Connection.
Plamp said the USO has started a new program that brings therapy dogs into USO centers worldwide. He said for many people they find strength and comfort by petting or cuddling the dogs.
A row of video game consoles was also a part of the presentation to demonstrate the USO’s determination to best connect with today’s military warriors. Gaming, Plamp said, is among the best stress relievers for Gen Z service members, according to surveys the USO has taken among that demographic. “Our gaming program is growing everywhere we have put it,” Plamp said.
The gaming, the dogs, the pageant winner and more were all there to show the broad range of programs the USO offers.