USO has been working in Washington D.C. this week to ensure more than 20,000 National Guard members feel appreciated — and full. While soldiers provide enhanced safety and protection as part of the 59th presidential inauguration preparation and festivities, the military support organization is boosting morale with burgers and more.
The organization is working with the DC National Guard Family Programs in the National Capital Region to offer staff, volunteers, and services such as Mobile USO vehicles and hygiene and snack care packages. The latest addition to the support team, a mobile McRig from McDonald’s, is serving more than 10,000 freshly prepared, hot meals.
USO COO Alan Reyes said the goal is to supplement the efforts and provisions provided by the Department of Defense and, most importantly, to let Guard members know the American people are behind them.
“In the midst of this difficult situation we are in, the highlight, for me anyway, is the tremendous gratitude I have for service members,” said Reyes, a current reservist.
“That they are willing to put on that uniform away from their civilian jobs and families, come here to the D.C. area, fulfill their mission and do it without question. We get to help them and remind them there is appreciation for them.”
In its latest demonstration of gratitude, the USO got the idea to reach out to McDonald’s about a partnership. Within 48 hours, the fast-food giant employed the McRig, a gigantic portable kitchen on wheels, to dish out bags of “hot, fresh, nostalgic American staple food,” as described by McDonald’s owner and operator Carlos Mateos Jr.
The McRig traveled from the Midwest to Washington, D.C. as Mateos Jr. — owner of 21 McDonald’s franchises in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia — assembled and trained a team of 20–25 employees to oversee its most demanding operation yet.
“This is the busiest my crew has been in a concentrated amount of time,” said Mateos Jr., “but they are thriving —laughing, smiling, playing music.”
“We are really enjoying ourselves. This is something special that we are doing here. This is historic and to a magnitude that we never imagined.”
Mateos said the most rewarding part about this mission is watching soldiers approach the McRig after waiting in long lines. They walk up smiling, positive, and often taking pictures.
“We hear lots of, ‘Thank you,’” he said.
“It’s so great because when we are handing out the food, we’re saying, ‘Thank you for your service,’ and they receive the food and their response is, ‘Thank you for your support.’”
Reyes said this is exactly the kind of attitude the USO is looking to foster. While he notes that the DOD is doing a great job making sure Guard members are fed and lodged appropriately, especially considering how quickly they orchestrated this massive operation, the USO is there to make the National Guard stronger and more resilient by letting them know America is behind them.
“Even though it might be in the form of a snack or a care package,” he said, “the real value of that is this affirmation that they are doing something that is important.”
The National Guard has asked the public not to send food and beverages directly to the National Guard in the National Capital Region. While the military appreciates the many offers from people who care about their soldiers and airmen, they are not logistically able to accept donations of any kind. USO continues to support the National Guard throughout this activation and wherever the National Guard is mobilized.Read comments