“This 77-year-old organization is not resting on it’s laurels,” said former Army Chief of Staff George Casey, who helped cut a ribbon to open the 3,800-square-foot headquarters in Liberty Station.
Casey, who chairs the national USO board of governors, described the organization, founded at the request of President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1941, as “a powerful expression of gratitude to the men and women who protect our freedom.”
Lorin Stewart, CEO of USO San Diego, said the organization is planning a “paradigm shift” in how it provides support to active-duty military and their families. More and more programs will be outbound, rather than at one of the USO’s now four local offices.
For example, arriving soon will be a large Sprinter van that can take services to personnel across San Diego County.
“The Liberty Station center is really built as the nerve center for these programs,” said Stewart.
The USO’s reach in San Diego is wide. Stewart said that last year the organization counted 220,000 instances of service, 32,000 meals served and 7,000 toys distributed.
But in some ways, the new Liberty Station headquarters is a return to the USO’s roots. Stewart said there is military housing for 900 within a one-mile walking distance.
“This is going back to the old Naval Training Center,” he said. “Bob Hope gave performances here.”