COVER STORYSeptember 2021

USO San Diego: Stars and Stripes Gala honors military heroes


The USO San Diego Stars and Stripes Gala promises to be a unique and intimate event hosted at the U.S. Coast Guard Sector San Diego, with an extraordinary view of the San Diego harbor and the downtown skyline. A USO show-style celebration of our military, community leaders, including a special line-up of entertainment, a performance by the iconic entertainer, Wayne Newton, comedians, and special guests, will be an event you won’t want to miss.

This year’s honorees will be recognized for their leadership and advocacy of our military and the San Diego community. The San Diego Padres will be presented with the American Eagle Award for their ongoing support, collaboration and their generous contributions that have boosted the morale of countless military service members with tickets to Padres games, meet and greets with their players and critical holiday programming for military families in the community.

The USO’s Lifetime Achievement Award will be presented in memoriam to Neil Ash, for his commitment to our troops and their families. Since 2013, the USO San Diego Neil Ash Airport Center has served hundreds of thousands of troops and military families thanks to his initiative and generosity in expanding the center. We are delighted his widow, June Ash, has allowed the USO to continue to highlight his legacy of support of his beloved USO San Diego.

Additionally, Dr. Michael R. Cunningham, Chancellor of National University System, will receive the Patriot Award for championing the educational needs of the military community. With the added challenge of deployments, relocations, and work schedules, Dr. Cunningham empowers military service members to achieve their goals while serving our nation at National University (NU).

“The programs and services at NU are specifically designed to provide the flexibility and support needed for military personnel to successfully complete degree programs,” Cunningham, who joined the National University System (NUS) in 2013, said.

“National University fills a vital need for our nation. The jobs of the future are changing with the rapid evolution of technology and the evolving workplace. Businesses need employees to fill the jobs of today, and the new jobs of tomorrow. As a country, we need places to prepare those workers of the future – as well as re-skill the people in the workforce now who will need to fill a different role as we evolve. With a focus on providing a workforce-relevant, cutting-edge education to students in the military, veterans, and other adult learners, National University is on the front lines of meeting that need.”

As a true believer in the benefits that NU brings to the community, Chancellor Cunningham has dedicated himself to continuing to improve and expand the curriculum, services, scholarship opportunities, as well as education and career opportunities offered to servicemembers, veterans, and their families all over the world. It is his personal goal to make National University one of the best in the world at providing quality, flexible, and accessible education to help students reach their education and career goals.

Since 1941, the USO has been the nation’s leading organization serving the men and women in the U.S. military and their families, throughout their time in uniform. USO San Diego has five USO Centers that include USO San Diego Neil Ash Airport Center, Liberty Station, San Diego Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS), USO Camp Pendleton, and a warehouse facility. Through its centers and mobile outreach, USO San Diego serves as a ‘home away from home’ for military heroes and their families.

The USO’s work through its centers, programs and services is America’s most powerful expression of gratitude to the men and women who secure our nation’s freedoms.

Gala Chairs Sherry Ahern and Brianna Ahern brought exceptional leadership to the USO Gala Committee this year.

“My daughter Brianna and I are delighted to Chair this extraordinary gala honoring our men and women in uniform,” Serry said. “It is very important that our community come together to show our appreciation for our heroes.”

The Aherns join Fern Murphy, celebrating 50 years of gala committee support to the USO San Diego, National University’s Nancy Rohland, San Diego Gas Company’s Andrea Smith, Board Chair Joe Craver, and the San Diego USO Board in their commitment to raising funds.

Join the USO San Diego for its annual Stars & Stripes Gala, on Saturday, October 23, 2021, to celebrate 80 years of the USO’s mission to strengthen America’s military service members by keeping them connected to family, home and country, throughout their service to the nation. For Stars & Stripes Gala information, sponsorship, table and tickets, visit or email Charissa Gonzales at


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