If you’ve served long enough, you know this drill: You’re in between flights and need a place to rest. Your bleary eyes scan the airport directory and find a USO center. You trudge down the terminal, sign in, drop your luggage, and look for a comfy chair where you can doze off.
For some troops and family members, rest is all they want or need. But for those who seek more, there’s often something special most visitors didn’t realize the USO had.
1. Video games: You’d expect our larger, on-base centers to have video games. But many of our airport centers — like two of our newer locations at Nashville International Airport and JFK International Airport in New York — have gaming systems hooked up to flat-screen monitors, too, just waiting for button-mashing troops to drop by.
2. Free sports tickets: These are rare. But if you’re a local, it never hurts to keep an eye out. Just ask Jessica Nash, who once received a pair of free tickets to a St. Louis Rams game after dropping by the USO of Missouri’s Lambert-St. Louis International Airport center. Many USO centers have relationships with area pro sports teams and occasionally get free tickets, which they distribute according to their own policies.
3. Theater-style rooms: Not every airport USO has one, but it’s a treat at those that do. The USO of Georgia has a narrow-yet-comfortable theater-style are at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport and USO of North Carolina’s Raleigh-Durham International Airport center features a plethora of cushy chairs that surround the large-screen televisions, just to name two.
4. Sandwiches: You expect coffee and snacks at USO centers. Those are USO staples. But did you know several USO centers have donation deals with airport food vendors? Depending on location (and the arrangement) those vendors may donate sandwiches, salads and more to USO centers for troops who stop by looking for a quick bite to eat.
5. Flight status boards: Worried about missing your plane? Relax. Some of our centers — including USO Las Vegas at McCarran International Airport — have arrivals and departures boards so troops and families in transit can stay informed.
6. Free neck pillows: OK, so this is an exclusive. But thanks to the generous donations by the local chapter of the World War II-era service group WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) troops and family members stopping by USO of San Diego’s Neil Ash Airport Center can pick up a free neck pillow while supplies last.