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A night to remember those we will never forget

USO Northwest holds annual gala, honors accomplished servicemembers

USO Northwest honors all six Service Members of the Year for the Pacific Northwest at last year's Five-Star Gala. Photo credit: USO Northwest

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It's no secret the USO is one of the military's biggest allies; its constant dedication and support of servicemembers has been apparent since its establishment in 1941. Currently, USO Northwest serves more than 750,000 military and their families annually, truly living through its mission statement of "strengthening America's military service members by keeping them connected to family, home and country, throughout their service to the nation."

One major way USO Northwest embodies this philosophy is by hosting its annual Five-Star Gala.    

This year, the gala will be held Nov. 18 at the Hyatt Regency Lake Washington at Seattle's Southport.  One of the first large events to be held at this location, the night is sure to be one to remember. The amount of time, planning and resources allocated to the benefit also fuel its success.

"The gala is a yearlong commitment by the USO Northwest Board and staff," said USO Northwest executive director and retired Navy commander Donald Leingang.

Individual tickets begin at $250, with tables of 10 available for $2,500. Attendees are treated to a scrumptious dinner, will have the opportunity to mingle with esteemed guests, and are invited to participate in both the silent and live auctions.

"We are constantly developing partnerships throughout the year, which allow us to create auction experiences and items," Leingang explained.

These collaborations equate to an awesome auction selection for bidders to peruse.

The event is meaningful in more ways than one, and each affects the military community in a variety of ways.

"The gala is important for two reasons," said Chief Master Sgt. Trish Almond, senior enlisted advisor for the Washington National Guard. "The first being it raises funds to support our members as they travel through locations in the Northwest -- Seatac, JBLM and Portland.  Additionally, the USO recognizes truly outstanding servicemembers from each of the branches and the National Guard. "

In addition to six Military Person of the Year awards, the Order of Distinguished Service Award will also be given.

"The Order of Distinguished Service Award is the highest level of recognition awarded by USO Northwest and is reserved for individuals and organizations who have demonstrated exceptional service to military members and families through sustained support of programs and services provided by USO Northwest," Leingang said. "This year's recipient is Mrs. Joan Shalikashvili, spouse of (retired) General John Shalikashvili, who is the former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for President Bill Clinton. Joan was a long-time USO Northwest Board member and still currently volunteers for the USO Northwest."

Although the gala is indeed a special annual event, the organization thrives on being an ally to service men and women year round.

"Our philosophy is that the military supports our nation 24/7/365," Leingang said, "so USO Northwest needs to do the same to support them."

USO Northwest Five-Star Gala, 5 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 18, Hyatt Regency Lake Washington at Seattle's Southport, $250-$2,500, 253.982.1100,

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