USO Arizona Volunteer Sacrifices Sleep so Stranded Troops and Families Have a Place to Stay

When Michelle Selby showed up to volunteer at the USO Arizona center at the Phoenix International Airport last week, she had no idea it was going to be an overnight shift.

But after a large sand storm (called a haboob) blanketed Phoenix — and stranded many traveling service members and their families overnight in the airport — Selby decided to make sure they had a comfortable place to spend the night.

“It makes you feel good when you can do something like that,” Selby said.

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USO Arizona is normally open to service members and their families daily until 8 p.m., unless special extended hours are requested ahead of time. But Selby chose to stay up all night so the USO Arizona center could stay open for the stranded military travelers.

“I just kept thinking, I wouldn’t be able to sleep when I got home,” Selby said. “As tired as I was getting, I couldn’t get myself to leave.”

Initially Selby thought she’d be able keep the center open until 10 p.m. But before she knew it, it was midnight, so she decided to keep the center open for as long as she could stay awake.

“I just didn’t have the heart to go wake them all up and say ‘You guys have to go sleep on the floor out in the airport, I’m going home to my comfy bed,'” Selby said.

Selby, whose son serves in the Air Force, hopes her actions inspire others to volunteer for the USO.

“My whole incentive when I’m at the USO is to try to treat people like I would want my son to be treated and taken care of,” Selby said.

New USO Center Set to Open in Phoenix

A Moving Tribute: Dignitaries announced the future USO site, to move from Terminal 2 to Terminal 4 in 2011. (Photo courtesy of

Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport welcomed some special guests this week to announce USO Arizona, a new facility expected to serve tens of thousands of troops and their family members traveling through the airport.  The new center will open in 2011 in Terminal 4, replacing the current facility in Terminal 2.

“To have the USO in the main terminal in Phoenix is going to be amazing,” Maj. Gen. Hugo Salazar, adjutant general for the Arizona National Guard, told The Arizona Sun. “When you walk into a USO, after you show your ID, you get a warm embrace.”

For the last four years, the airport supported troops and their families through the Military & Veterans Hospitality Room in Terminal 2.  With the coming of the USO many more troops and their families will have this same opportunity in a larger, modern facility.

“Today is an exciting day as we welcome the USO to one of the ten busiest airports in the US and America’s Friendliest Airport™,” said Aviation Director Danny Murphy to a crowd that included Sloan Gibson, President and CEO of the USO; Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon; Dave McIntyre, President and CEO of the TriWest Healthcare Alliance; Congressman Harry Mitchell and Congressman John Shadegg; and Phoenix Councilmen Bill Gates, Michael Johnson, Claude Mattox and Sal Diciccio.

For more information about the current offerings for members of the military and their families, please click here.  And we’ll see you at the new center next year!