The United Service Organization is holding down Pioneer Court this Memorial Day weekend -- every hour of it. The clock started at 4:30 a.m. Thursday.
In honor of troops and National Military Appreciation Month, USO members will camp out 24 hours a day until Monday night. The group, housed by a tent covered in camouflage netting, came equipped with sleeping bags, blankets and lots of coffee to get them through the weekend.
“[The volunteers] are really, really dedicated,” said Beth Polito, director of PR for the USO of Illinois. “We have such a great group.”
The Hyatt hotel donated a room for the volunteers to grab cat naps between shifts, and the United Service Companies provided security for those on overnight shifts.
More than 30 volunteers will take shifts throughout the weekend to maintain their post for the five-day stretch, some staying for 12- to 18-hour shifts.
Military veterans, active serving members and even actor David Koechner, in town to promote the movie "Anchorman 2," stopped by to thank volunteers for their work.
“Now that I’m volunteering I see that I make a difference and we all make a difference,” said 20-year-old volunteer and army pledge Martin Madina.
Many volunteers come from the organization’s six centers in Illinois including Navy Pier, O’Hare Airport, Midway Airport, Rock Island and Naval Station Great Lakes. The USO is dedicated to providing troops with a “home away from home” and assisting troops in various ways.
The event provides city goers with an opportunity to donate to the organization, sign up for email lists and write a postcard to troops abroad.
“The troops really seem to like the postcards,” said Polito. “It’s really nice for them to hear that thank you from somebody they’ve never met and know we’re thinking about them.”