The United Service Organization is close to Jeanne Jones’ heart, for more reason than one.
A long-time La Jolla resident, philanthropist, and author, Jones first got involved with USO San Diego five years ago with her late husband Don Breitenberg. They co-chaired the annual Stars and Stripes gala for three years together — the kind of charitable role they were known for playing in the community.
This will be Jones’ fourth year co-chairing the event, and her first year doing with without Breitenberg by her side. He died of cardiac arrest on Nov. 24, 2018, at the age of 93. His name will still be listed next to Jones’ as a co-chair on the event’s brochure.
“He had a real feeling for veterans coming back,” she said. “I don’t think many people understand the work the USO does. They’re unbelievable for the families that are left behind."
Breitenberg served as a paratrooper in the Army during World War II. During his time in the service, he received two purple hearts, the World War II Victory Medal, and the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with two Bronze Battle Stars, according to his obituary in The San Diego Union-Tribune. In 2015, he was also one of 14 San Diego World War II veterans who were given the Legion of Honor medal.
He was only 17 years old when he decided to enlist.
“His mother had to sign for him to join. But at that time in our history, all the young men at that age group wanted to go to war.”
Even though active-duty soldiers are always on her mind, Jones said that she and Breitenberg supported the USO for so many years because of “all of the things they would do to keep a family going” while their loved one was away on active duty.
“Those are the people I worry about,” she said. “To do be home and worried about what’s going on all the time is a very stressful position to be in."
For more information about the event and to purchase tickets, visit sosandiego.org/gala-2019.