USO Gala tops $900,000 for military family programs


The 78th Anniversary USO Stars & Stripes Gala, “Stand Up for Liberty,” took place May 18, 2019 at the Marriott Marquis San Diego. Co-chairs were Stephanie Brown, Arlene and Richard Esgate, Hélène and George Gould, Reena and Sam Horowitz, and Jeanne Jones (in loving memory of her recently deceased husband, Don Breitenberg).

During the evening, actor Gary Sinise received the Patriot Award, and San Diego philanthropist Ernest Rady was honored with the American Eagle Award for his significant longtime support (which he later expanded by making a moving speech and pledging a six-figure matching donation). Co-chair George Gould was given a “Superior Service Award” for his dedication to USO-SD.

After a cocktail reception amid a huge silent auction, festivities continued in the ballroom, strikingly decorated in red, white and blue. Marine Band San Diego was already playing, delighting enthusiastic guests before the ceremonial presentation of the colors.

News anchors Nichelle Medina and Lisa Remillard emceed the program and artist Joe Everson sang The National Anthem while finishing a painting that was then auctioned for $4,500.

Co-chair Reena Horowitz spoke from her heart, saying (with careful enunciation) “We need to raise a shipload of money” for the programs our service people depend on. Guests responded appropriately during the subsequent paddle-raise and live auction, and overall event proceeds are expected to top $900,000.

Frankie Moreno’s 10-piece band played for dancing.

The USO (United Services Organization) was formed by Congressional charter and is the nation’s leading organization serving members of the U.S. military and their families. However, the federal government doesn’t provide the USO with any financial support, so all its expenses must be covered by donations from private and corporate donors.

And the expenses are substantial, because the USO does a lot. Last year, USO San Diego helped more than 253,000 active service members and their families. The organization’s 1,200-plus volunteers donated more than 52,000 hours of their time helping to keep service members connected to family, home and country. Learn more at