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USO offers support to grieving families

DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del. (AFNS) -- 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, the Families of the Fallen support manager, helps orchestrate the USO support to families of the fallen who are on their way to Dover AFB to witness the dignified transfer of a loved one. She coordinates with USOs at airports across the nation to ensure 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," Bottorf said. "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, the wife of Air Force Maj. Philip Ambard who was killed in Kabul in April 2011, it made all the difference, particularly during a layover in Texas, while traveling to Dover AFB.

"When Phil died, the USO staff met us at our connecting gate," Ambard said. "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 the travel to Dover AFB.

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. 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 arrive.

The USO provides food, beverages and incidentals 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 AFB, Bottorfe said.

"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 (Air Force Mortuary Afairs Operations) 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."

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