Cities Region

USO San Diego prepares for 77th annual Stars and Stripes Gala

SAN DIEGO — On May 5, USO San Diego will host its 77th annual gala. The San Diego Marriott Marquis and Marina is the venue with an event theme of For Love of Country. This is USO San Diego’s most significant fundraising gala of the year. While Congress does charter USO San Diego, the organization does not accept any government funding.

Established in 1941, the USO has more than 150 centers around the globe which provide programs and services to active military members and their families. There are more than 30 USO airport centers that offer a destination for military families who have long layovers, need assistance with flight connections and more. The USO Neil Ash Airport Center is located at San Diego International Airport in Terminal 2.

USO San Diego depends on community support so that it can continue to help those in the armed forces and their families.

Brian Stokes Mitchell. Courtesy photo

Musical entertainment for the gala is two-time Tony Award recipient Brian Stokes Mitchell.

Presenting sponsors and honorary committee members of the gala are Rancho Santa Fe residents June and C. Neil Ash. Clarence Ash has been devoted to USO San Diego for decades.

According to June Ash, her husband has been involved with the USO San Diego for 30 years. He served as board member, board president and held a seat on the board of governors.

“Neil was the founder of the USO Neil Ash Airport Center,” June Ash said. “Its development began under his presidency of USO San Diego.”

With the help of financial support from businesses, the center opened its doors in 1990.

Ash said the Neil Ash Center USO San Diego Airport, which is 11,000 square feet, serves more than 140,000 military personnel every year.

“In all the programs, USO San Diego Serves locally over 230,000 military and their families a year,” Ash said. “In 2000, Neil was the recipient of the ‘Spirit of Hope’ Award, which is a portrait bas-relief of Bob Hope.” Ash said it the highest honor awarded by USO World Headquarters.

Ash said she and her husband remain honorary committee members of the gala because they are both dedicated to having the best and finest gala to honor the armed forces. She went on to credit the Gala Committee, which works tirelessly throughout the year to put on the USO San Diego Gala.

“It (gala) is now considered one of the top five signature events to attend each year and the most patriotic gala in San Diego,” June Ash said.

While the gala promises a night of unforgettable moments and enjoyment, those who attend shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that the proceeds are going to an important cause.

“The USO receives no government funding, so all proceeds go to provide services to the military and their families,” Ash said. “Preserving these services depends on the funds raised by our gala. Our goal this year for the event is to raise $800,000.”

During the evening, Jack McGrory, who is an avid philanthropist, will be recognized as a gala honoree.

Event co-chairs are Arlene and Richard Esgate, Hélène and George Gould, Reena and Sam Horowitz, Jeanne Jones and Don Breitenberg and Stephanie Brown. Premier title sponsors are Hélène and George Gould.

Serving as emcee once again for the gala is Mark Larson of KFMB AM radio.

For ticket information, visit