Palm Springs, Calif. -- -

It's deployment day yet again for United States Marine Corps 1st Lieutenant Andrew Fernando.

He and 50 marines from his platoon woke up with the sun for a hot breakfast at the Palm Springs USO before heading out to Okinawa, Japan.

"The USO provided a lot of food, cooked us breakfast, lunch, and dinner yesterday," he says, "Some of the guys get to go out, see their families for the last time, and just enjoy the town, enjoy the area, before they head out to Japan."

The locally-funded USO provides a safe-haven for the troops, while members of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians and the Spa Resort Casino donated and served the food.

"We don't try to be just a body here for them," explains volunteer Wes Newby, "we try to be a friendship, a family member, treat them like they're family... Their home away from home is actually what we try to be."

The men trained in Twentynine Palms for a month.

While this was a thank you to them, they insisted on giving thanks.

"Without you, we wouldn't be able to just enjoy our time here, from going back home, from Japan like we are going," said LC pl Malcom Crafton, "so I really want to thank everyone out there and God Bless."

"Thank you very much," says Fernando with utter sincerity to the USO. "You've been so accommodating to myself and to my troops and I appreciate it. They all appreciate it and take it to heart."
 
To volunteer at the USO, visit http://www.bobhopeuso.org/.

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On a personal note, I learned a lot about the USO as a Bob Hope Classic Girl in 2011. I would like to thank these volunteers, as well as our troops, for their time and service to our country. It was an honor to cover this story and say goodbye to these men as they deployed.