6 Things You May Be Surprised to Find Inside a USO Airport Center

Arrivals and departures boards inside the USO at JFK International Airport in New York, so troops and families don't have to guess about their flights. USO photos

Arrivals and departures boards are located inside the USO at JFK International Airport in New York, so troops and families don’t have to guess about their flights. USO photo

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.

Photos: Hunter Hayes a Huge Hit With Military Fans at His First USO Show

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Country star Hunter Hayes made a big impact at Naval Station Norfolk this week, performing his first USO show, meeting with two USO contest winners during radio appearances and greeting hundreds of fans before taking the stage.

“I can’t express in words what this first USO show was like for me,” Hayes said. “Getting to perform for all these special men and women, and their families – all of you! Thank you for your service, and for sacrificing all the little moments. We love you.”

He’ll be around the military community this fall, too. Hayes is playing another USO show in October for American troops, this time at Royal Air Force Mildenhall, England, on Oct. 11. He also says he’s excited about promoting the USO’s Every Moment Counts campaign, even donning a T-shirt with the campaign’s logo at one point Thursday.

“Every Moment Counts – I love those three words,” Hayes told the USO in an interview Tuesday. “I love that that’s what our current focus is. And the message is the fact that they give so much for us, that every moment with them, we never want to take it for granted.”

You can see more photos from Hayes’ Norfolk show on our Flickr site.

Congress Helps USO Prep Warrior Care Packs for Wounded Troops

WASHINGTON—On the eve of the 9/11 anniversary, the USO and 75 members of Congress partnered to assemble 1,500 hygiene kits to be included in the USO Warrior Care Packs that will be given to wounded, ill and injured troops around the globe. These essential packs are designed to provide troops with the comforts of home during their recovery process.

“This is a very well-attended event and it’s great that we give an opportunity for our congressional leadership who really support the USO to help the troops overseas,” USO President and CEO Dr. J.D. Crouch II said.

The hygiene kits, which were assembled in the foyer of the Rayburn House Office Building, are filled with necessities  like shampoo, shaving items and toothpaste.

“It’s simple stuff, but it’s the stuff that when they step off the plane they don’t have,” Crouch said.

Click here to see photos from the USO service project on Capitol Hill. 

New Issue of On Patrol Goes Back to Basics

Fall Cover 2014The digital edition of On Patrol’s Fall 2014 issue is available now. Go to usoonpatrol.org to go “Back to Basics” with our nation’s military and its families.

We’ve got Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force boot camps covered, in addition to important stories about physical and fiscal fitness to help keep you and your bank account healthy.

Noel Meador and Rachel Harris from Stronger Families, a USO program partner, explain how their organization’s Oxygen for Your Relationships seminars help military couples strengthen bonds and improve communication. The magazine features more stories on wide-ranging topics like military food, the plight of caregivers after war, moving and adjusting to life as a military spouse.

These stories and more are just a click away.

TV That Backs the Troops: “Sons of Anarchy” Starts its Final Season

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The final season of “Sons of Anarchy” debuts tonight on FX at 10 p.m. EDT. And if you didn’t already have enough reasons to watch, you should know cast members have done multiple USO tours to support the troops, including appearances in the Pacific, downrange and stateside.

“I am so indebted to our outstanding men and women who singularly sacrifice their own time, talents and safety to protect and defend all that is dear to us as Americans,” actor Ron Perlman wrote in an email around the time of his 2012 USO tour stop at Twentynine Palms, California. “To have the opportunity to spend time with these great young people only begins to allow me the opportunity to communicate how special they are and how grateful we all are that they are who they are.”

“Sons of Anarchy” USO tour veterans include Perlman, Theo Rossi, Dayton Callie, Kim Coates and Mark Boone Junior.

Why I Signed: The Stories Behind the USO’s Guinness World Record-Breaking Flag

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When people get fired up about supporting America’s troops, they usually do it in a big way.

Today, the USO announced it shattered the Guinness World Record for most signatures on a flag, collecting 115,405 signatures earlier this year. Part of the Every Moment Counts campaign, the certified record breaks the previous mark by more than 82,000 signatures. The flag will be unveiled to the public on a three-city tour that starts Thursday at the Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati.

While 115,405 is a huge number, it’s also one with a lot of meaning. The USO asked those who signed the flag online to explain why they did it.

“My family’s military history goes back over 10 consecutive generations,” said online signer Beth Hish. “I did this for them and the thousands of others who serve and who have served our great nation.”

Hish said she directly benefitted from USO services as a teen when her family was stationed at Clark Air Base in the Philippines in the early 1990s. Those included a Billy Joel visit and performance at her high school.

“The concerts, school visits and activities brought a little piece of stateside comfort to a kid who was struggling to fit in to a new school [and] community. It was something familiar that I could connect with. USO programming [and] support is such a special gift to military members and their families. The least we can do is show our support in return. … That’s why I signed the flag.”

Others had similar stories:

“I signed the flag because I fully understand the importance of feeling support from all the non-military people in our great nation. I served eight years in the Army Signal Corps. … Every where I went the USO was there in some form or fashion … whether it was a recreation tent or a phone center and even on occasion seeing big-name musicians, actors and public figures all out showing their support for the U.S. military. I have not — nor will I ever — forget what our flag stands for and what it means to me. … Thank you USO for being there for all us.” –Former Sgt. Craig D. Matthews

“I signed the flag because I love America and I am proud to serve in the [Air Force] Reserve! The USO has provided me a place to rest and recuperate between flights on multiple deployments. I always feel welcome and safe.” –Carolyn Newhouse

“I signed the flag because all three of my sons have served or currently serve in the military. … [I am] very proud of my boys. The USO has been their for them when they transition from place to place. Thank you for all that you do for our military.” –Rosalee Morris

“My father is a Marine. My parents met at the USO. I was born and bred in the Marine Corps and work for the Air Force. I see every day what the men and women of our armed forces sacrifice for our country and am proud to support them in their endeavors. Thank you USO for your support … I might not be here if it wasn’t for your wonderful organization.” –Kim Chastain

(Editors note: Submissions lightly edited for style)