The USO coordinator assigned to Naval Support Facility Dahlgren has been getting to know the community since she came aboard in July. Valerie Burstion, a Rocky Mount, N.C. native, draws on her experiences as a Navy spouse as she works to accomplish the USO’s mission: serving those who serve and their families.
Before her husband retired, his Navy career took the Burstion family to military installations across the country and the globe. The tours ingrained on Burstion the unique needs of military families, as well as the unique challenges they face. Since 1941, the USO has partnered with the Department of Defense to help meet those needs and provide “a home away from home.”
“USO Metropolitan Washington-Baltimore is a private, nonprofit organization whose mission is to serve active duty service members and their families,” said Burstion. “As the largest charter chapter in the world, USO-Metro has six centers on military installations and four USO lounges in the local regional airports.”
The Dahlgren USO, located next to the Chapel Annex at 720 Sampson Road, was established in 2010. “It is here for our troops and families to stop by and watch a movie on the big screen TV, read a book, play a video game, use the Wi-Fi or computer lab,” said Burstion. “In addition, this center offers snacks and refreshments for its patrons.”
Burstion has already established weekly events at the Dahlgren USO like the Little Patriots, a playgroup that meets every Tuesday, from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m., in the center’s special Sesame Street Room. “The Sesame Room project is an exciting extension of Sesame Workshop’s ongoing Talk, Listen, Connect program for military families,” said Burstion. “All children under five years of age are invited to come play, socialize, do crafts and interact with other children. Snacks and drinks are provided.”
The Bread Bonanza, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Tuesdays, gives service members the opportunity to pick up bread from the USO. “Thanks to a generous weekly donation from Walmart, we have lots of bread, cakes, pies, cookies, muffins and more,” said Burstion. “[The Bread Bonanza is] open to all Active Duty Military personnel and their families, this is a great way to add to your weekly groceries. Always different... always good!”
On Wednesdays, the Dahlgren USO hosts a Bible study from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. led by Lt. Randy Gibson, Naval Support Activity South Potomac command chaplain.
The Dahlgren USO also offers some exciting monthly events for service members and their families. The Dine and Dash Dinner is scheduled on the first Tuesday of every month, from 3 to 6 p.m. “Come and join us as we offer a full meal to say ‘thank you’ for all you do. Past meals have included fried chicken, lasagna, homemade chilis, chicken stir fry and Sloppy Joe’s, to name a few. Meal is complete with side dishes, drinks and of course, dessert. Dine and Dash Dinner is open to all active duty military personnel and their families. Come and enjoy!”
Game night is on the third Thursday of every month starting at 6 p.m. Prizes include gift baskets and gift cards.
Several special events are also scheduled, including a Family Game Night, with Back to School Bingo on Aug. 26 starting at 6 p.m., a Back to School Brunch for parents on Sept. 4 from 10:30 - 11:30 a.m., and a Volunteer Fair on Sept. 11 from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Volunteers, of course, are the foundation of the USO and all of the goods and services it provides. Burstion encourages anyone interested in giving back to the military community to contact her and learn how they can help.
Burstion would like to expand those activities with the help of new volunteers. Some ideas for new events are book clubs, coffee and tea breaks, arts and crafts, and Pinterest projects. “I would love to bring more people in,” she said. “Giving back to our service members is very rewarding.”
Anyone interested in learning more about USO events, creating new events or volunteering at the Dahlgren USO should call (540) 663-2360 or email ValerieB@usometro.org.