USO Steps in to Help Stranded Military Teen and Give Worried Mom Piece Of Mind

Marlene Kenney and her family. Photo courtesy Marlene Kenney

Marlene Chapman and her family. Photo courtesy Marlene Chapman

Marlene Chapman never thought her kids would need the USO.

But after her 19-year-old daughter, Mareena Brown, found herself alone, upset and stranded overnight in the Denver airport, Chapman, who’s married to Air Force 1st Lt. Joseph Chapman, was relieved the USO was there to lend a hand.

“I can’t explain it, except to say, I am crying (again) thinking how relieved I was knowing she felt safe. Knowing she was safe,” Chapman wrote in an email. “I always thought it was for the ones serving, not their families.”

Chapman and Brown’s USO story began long before any plane tickets were booked.

A few years back, Chapman and her children lived in Colorado. That’s where Brown met her friend Cali Lurvey, whose father was in the Army. But military families rarely stay in one place for long. Eventually, Brown moved to Salt Lake City with her mother, and Cali relocated to Minot, South Dakota, with her family. The girls remained close and continued to grow their friendship, particularly when Brown struggled with health issues and Graves’ disease during high school.

Brown eventually graduated high school and started to regain her health. She resumed everyday activities, too, including getting a job at a local call center. After earning her first paycheck, Brown decided to spend the money to visit Cali. So she booked a flight to Minot, packed her bag and had Chapman drop her off at the airport.

“She was very nervous about traveling alone,” Chapman wrote. “I was even more nervous.”

When Brown landed in Denver, she received a series of flight delay texts, and later, a notification that her connecting flight to Minot was cancelled. Alone, and facing a night in the airport without her luggage, Brown called her mother, who suggested she head to Denver International Airport’s USO center.


After signing in with a volunteer, calming herself down and fueling up on a sandwich and juice, Brown called her mother to let her know that everything was going to be alright.

“She told me to thank Joe (my husband) for being awesome and in the Air Force,” Chapman wrote. “She said the USO felt safe.”

Even though the center closed 10 p.m., Brown said the USO volunteers gave her plenty of snacks and books to keep her happy in the main terminal until the center re-opened at 6 a.m. The next day, Brown went back to the USO and spent her morning relaxing at the center before catching her flight to Minot.

After her experience with the USO, Brown told her mother that she’d like to look into volunteering at her local USO.

“I told her that we will all look into it as a family,” Chapman wrote. “I am grateful to the USO for helping me find peace of mind while she was traveling. We definitely want to be part of the USO community, family, organization.”

American is the USO’s Official Airline

American Airlines has just announced they’re expanded their relationship with the USO, becoming the first official airline partner in our 69-year history of supporting U.S. military service members.

“At American Airlines, supporting our troops, veterans and their families is a cornerstone commitment we have made to honor those who protect the freedoms we hold so dear,” said Roger Frizzell, American’s Vice President – Corporate Communications and Advertising. “We are extremely proud to be the official airline of the USO, an organization whose sole mission is to serve those who serve this great nation.”

As the USO’s official airline, American will provide in-kind support, as well as fundraising assistance, including a new American Airlines Gift Card that launches today.  When purchasers select the USO gift card option, American will donate $5 to the USO for every $50 of travel purchased.

“American’s extensive network and long history of supporting members of the armed forces make them an ideal partner for us,” said Kelli Seely, USO’s Senior Vice President, Development & Chief Development Officer. “It is an honor to welcome American Airlines as the official airline of the USO.”

The new Join Us website,, invites the public to learn more about the not-for-profit organizations American supports, including military/veterans programs, Susan G. Komen for the Cure(r), Kids In Need(r) and disaster relief efforts. Customers may contribute to these causes by making cash donations to earn AAdvantage miles, and pre-purchasing travel, wherein American will donate 10 percent of travel purchased to the USO, if designated. The website provides a one-stop opportunity to learn about American’s community programs and the ways customers can get involved.

The American Airlines Gift Card is available in denominations from $50 to $1,500 and can be applied toward the purchase of travel on any American Airlines, American Eagle or AmericanConnection carrier, or any oneworld partner or codeshare flight published fare. Unlike many gift cards, there is no expiration date. When completing the payment information, enter “USO” in the tracking code box. The gift card can be delivered to the recipient via e-mail, with a personal message included, if desired.

We’re thrilled to announce this new partnership and hope you’ll enjoy flying American Airlines as much as we do.  Let us know when you use this program – we want to hear about your travel experiences!