America Supports You: USO Welcomes Soldiers to Dallas
By Spc. Matthew Chlosta, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service
GRAPEVINE, Texas, Dec. 21, 2004 During the holiday season "The Twelve Days of Christmas" plays repeatedly in homes, on radios and on stereos throughout America. At the new Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport United Service Organizations Center, they sing a slightly different tune.
Army Sgt. Don Baylor (left) and Capt. Chris O'Malley, both
from the 27th Main Support Battalion of the 1st Cavalry Division, make free
phone calls to talk with friends and family in the foyer of the new Dallas Fort
Worth International Airport's USO Center. Photo by Spc. Matthew Chlosta,
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
On the first day of Christmas, donors gave to soldiers: nine free cell phones, dozens of free calling cards, seven computers with free high-speed wireless Internet access, seven recliners, five regular phone lines, one microwave, free Starbucks coffee, two huge flat widescreen televisions, free Xbox video game console, snacks, two free guitars, one foosball table -- and a partridge in a pear tree.
"We provide a warm, safe, happy place that will serve as a home away from home (for servicemembers)," Tiffany Sefton, programs manager for the USO at DFW Airport, said.
The space for the USO center was donated by the DFW Airport, with some of the start-up costs paid for by their board and other corporate sponsors.
A new 2,900-square-foot wonderland, the center also has a game loft, accessed by a twisty staircase above the coffee caf next to the ice cream bar.
In the game loft, military members can enjoy Xbox games, foosball, chairs to lounge in, and plugs for laptops. They can also read a free newspaper or book, or use the computer workstations to surf the Internet and check e-mail.
Down on the center's main floor, servicemembers can take a nap in the darkened "sleep room" on one of the seven fully reclining loungers, watch a DVD in the movie room, or chill out and watch the news on the television over the ice cream bar, while enjoying free ice cream and free non-alcoholic drinks.
Troops pass through DFW Airport while traveling to and from the United States on daily military chartered flights from Kuwait. "We have served over 50,000 military members and their families since June 14," Sefton said.
"Because we're supporting the (rest and recuperation) program we're also making the USO Center available to well wishers, family members and friends of military members while they wait for the R&R flights to arrive," he said.
"It's great that they have it," said Army Maj. David Griffiths, a member of National Guard's 1st Battalion, 185th Armor Regiment, from San Bernardino, Calif.
"Soldiers can just relax and get back in the right frame of mind, whether you're coming or going," Griffiths said Dec. 14 while waiting for the daily flight back to Kuwait and then Iraq.
"I think it's fantastic," said Capt. Chris O'Malley, of the 1st Cavalry Division's 27th Main Support Battalion. "It gives people a last bit of R&R before going back, and you can't beat the free coffee."
Volunteers are the lifeblood of the USO, Sefton said. "USO is a volunteer-run organization," he said. "They are what make this such a neat place. They make it a homey place. They stand in for the family members away from home."
"The whole attitude is to make the soldiers as comfortable as possible," Marbrey Van Landingham, a USO volunteer, said. "I think they're fabulous. I feel like I have to do something to support our troops. Most haven't been to a USO before. They can't believe any of it, especially free cell phones. They always thank me for serving them. I'm always amazed by that because I get to go home (at the end of the day)."
"They made me feel real good, and they make you feel special," said Spc. Mitchell Kauley, a member of the 1st Infantry Division's 118th Infantry Regiment.
"One of the best I've ever seen," Lt. Col. Derek Smith, battalion commander of the 725th Main Support Battalion, of the 25th Infantry Division, said about the DFW Airport USO. "I definitely recommend it."
The USO is located in Terminal B at Gate B15 (secure side). The hours of the DFW Airport USO are 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. or until the departing R&R flight leaves in the evening.
Almost every morning there are troops arriving on early flights from Hawaii and other places waiting outside for us to open, Dee Neidenberger, a USO volunteer, said. "I just love saying goodbye to them, wishing them luck," she said. "I like helping them."
"The USO motto is, 'Until Everyone Comes Home,'" Sefton said. "The military members will always be out there defending our country during war and times of peace. So we're always going to be here."
(Army Spc. Matthew Chlosta is assigned to the 4th Public Affairs Detachment.)