USO offers support to grieving families

  • Published
  • By Christin Michaud
  • AFMAO Public Affairs
In line with their long-standing tradition of supporting the troops and their families, the USO provides care for families of the fallen who travel to Dover Air Force Base, Del.

Yolanda Bottorf, Families of the Fallen support manager, helps orchestrate the USO support to families of the fallen on their way to Dover to witness the dignified transfer of a loved one.

She coordinates with USOs at airports across the nation to make sure grieving families have the support they need throughout their travels.

"The USO Families of the Fallen primary mission is to offer support to the families of our fallen heroes during one of the most difficult times of their lives," explained Bottorf. "If there is a USO in an airport they are traveling through, we a have a USO representative standing by to meet them and assist the family with their needs while in the airports."

For Linda Ambard, wife of Air Force Maj. Philip Ambard, killed in Kabul in April 2011, it made all the difference, particularly an incident when she was flying through Texas.

"When Phil died the USO staff met us at our connecting gate," said Ambard. "We had no identifying apparel on, but they found us and walked us to the next gate with water and snacks. When I found out that my credit card was frozen ... USO staff stepped up and offered me their own money for drinks, snacks and magazines. I have never forgotten this kindness."

The mission of the USO Families of the Fallen extends beyond just the travel to Dover.

While here, families often stay at the Fisher House for Families of the Fallen which is designed to be a home away from home for families during their short stay here. The USO, with the help of outside agencies, donors and volunteers like Friends of the Fallen, ensures families have less to worry about when they get here - food and incidentals are provided for them.

The USO provides food and beverages to families at the Fisher House as well as the Center for Families of the Fallen through donations. The Friends of the Fallen provide other comfort items and toiletries that may be needed during their stay.

The USO Families of the Fallen program support doesn't end at Dover, explained Bottorf.
"USO staff and volunteers are on call to assist a family's needs 24/7 as they travel to and from Dover AFB, funerals and memorials," she said. "We also provide assistance to escorts who accompany their fallen comrades to their final homecoming."

Bottorf has been working with the USO for more than three years, two of which have been with the Families of the Fallen Support Program.

It was an easy decision for her to get involved with the USO when she moved here with her active-duty husband.

"I was so touched by the special mission that USO Delaware supported at AFMAO and Dover AFB," she said. "I immediately knew I wanted to be a part of supporting our troops and their families."

"The USO Families of the Fallen is committed to always being by the side of the families of our fallen heroes, and can hopefully offer comfort and support to these families," said Bottorf.

This position is another example of how the USO continues to provide programs and services to troops and their families, and will continue to do so 'until every one comes home.'