OKINAWA, Japan - Aboard the Marine Corps Air Station on the island of Okinawa, Japan, one man strives to give back to a community he once served while on active duty.
Thomas Gadbois, United Service Organizations, Futenma center manager, embraces the opportunity to return to MCAS Futenma, Marine Corps Installations Pacific, and help the community he once cherished.
“I still love the Marine Corps and being able to come in here every day and see Marines and sailors and give something back to them is my greatest joy,” said Gadbois. “Making their time here easier and more comfortable is what it’s all about for me.”
The USO is a nonprofit organization, which provides programs, services and live entertainment to United States service members and their families. Some services offered on Futenma include a host of free dinners, gaming, phone calls home and movies. The organization also supports to the station’s large-scale and unit events.
United Service Organizations Futenma is unique because it services the only MCAS on Okinawa. Due to service members on Okinawa being subject to various liberty restrictions, the USO is a welcome place of comfort for service members.
“Too many times you here Marines say ‘I didn’t know about that,’ and we want to get rid of that because this organization is truly a group effort,” said Gadbois.
Throughout Okinawa, there are approximately 30 staff members who service roughly 40,000 personnel.
Gadbois said volunteers and sponsors are a significant help toward the USO mission.
“For some people it’s nice to have a home away from home, and that’s what this USO is for,” said Sgt. Coby Caldwell, a frequent volunteer and data chief with Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron aboard MCAS Futenma. “Typically, [single service members] have their families here, so they can come and see familiar faces week-in and week-out. This is just a great environment where you can step away from work and relax.”
Being open year-round, Gadbois said dedicated volunteers like Caldwell help raise morale of service members, especially during holidays where service members can enjoy a meal with comrades.
“We just want to make sure service members know there is a place for them to go,” said Gadbois. “A place they know people are there for them.”
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