Block Leave Enters Baltimore

Donna Miles of Air Forces Press Service has been reporting on holiday homecomings for the past two days: “’This is a nice, quite place, where they let you take a load off your feet,’ said Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Nao Lewis.”

The USO Lounge at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport offers military travelers a respite from crowded airport terminals, particularly during the holiday season. DoD photo by Donna Miles

He’s speaking, of course, about a USO Center, in this case the one at the Baltimore-Washington International Airport.  And other Centers around the country continue to see huge upticks in the number they serve.

As Troops stream through airports on Block Leave, USO Centers continue to adapt to their needs.  The USO at Philadelphia International Airport slept 100 on Saturday night, as snow blanketed the East Coast.  Things had calmed down by Wednesday afternoon, though the staff continued to meed unique requests.

“Do you have a refrigerator?” one Troops questioned as he entered the Center.  After the staff confirmed that they did, and that he could use it, he unloaded a knapsack with nearly 60 pounds of deer meat it in, bound for Christmas dinner at points south.  Just another day at the USO!

The BWI USO was running with a staff of three…augmented by 230 volunteers!

Miles reports, “Airman Ronald Carr, who just finished Air Force basic training, grew up in a military family that taught him to appreciate the USO. ‘It’s good to know that this is basically an all-volunteer operation, with a volunteer staff and donations that keep it running,’ he said. ‘It makes me feel good about my service, knowing that people care about what I do.’

Army Pfc. Taylor Walther, a California National Guardsman returning home for a holiday break from training at Fort Eustis, Va., said he’s already had the chance to check out several USO facilities, and never walks away disappointed. ‘They’re all good. When you go there, they’re all friendly, they all tell you to help yourself and make yourself at home,’ he said.”

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