By Mike Dougherty

PHILADELPHIA (CBS)–The USO of Pennsylvania and Southern New Jersey held its 72nd annual gala on Friday night and this year they brought the festivities to the Philadelphia Marriott Downtown.

President Joe Brooks says the move allowed them to nearly double the attendance from 400 people last year to more than 700 this year.

“Our largest fundraiser of the year, so this gala ensures that we can operate in 2014,” Brooks says.

Co-chair Ken Wong says this year’s theme is “always by their side” and as always, money raised here goes directly to help service men and women and their families.

“You know, in the military, there are times that aren’t so great and they need our help and our support because they’re there serving us — we’re there to serve them.”

Five service members, one from each branch, received service member of the year award for their outstanding contributions to the military.

“It it wasn’t for the military and what they do overseas, protecting our freedoms here, my family wouldn’t have had the opportunity to come into this country,” Wong says.

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