The following is not officially classified as a “benefit”, but it sure qualifies as one!


My first trip to a United Services Organization (a.k.a. USO Center) happened at after a meeting with my Military Spouse Community Counterparts. Well almost. They ran into a well-known Pilot and I spent most of the time outside the place because I didn’t carry my identification that proved I’m a Veteran on this trip.  This particular USO Center looked really nice from the outside looking in though. By the time we reconnected, it was time for me to catch my flight. Maybe next time Ladies! No worries.


You see, I’ve been a civilian for nearly 20 years now, and like so many Veterans I tend to either forget that some things are still available to me or maybe just feel that currently serving Veterans and Military Families should go first. In reality, I tend to think that some Veteran’s programs should push Active-Duty to the front of the line – especially since civilian life has been pretty good to me.  


My civilian travels usually take me straight to the airline gate or occasionally to one of those Airline Lounges reserved for V.I.P.s. Don’t get the wrong idea here; I usually rode on the coattails of my Manager or other Corporate Royalty to get into these special places. These people who travel much more than I did – they earned “Plutonium Status” on the airlines and got all these special perks as a result – hip lounges, fancy food, kickin’ soundtrack, and all. Either way, the experience was kinda like getting a backstage pass at a concert! They have ALL the amenities there!


So, one day after some back-to-back, weeklong travels via airplane, I decided to visit a USO Center – for the second time in my life. This particular USO happened to be at The Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport. Honestly, I was a bit hesitant. For years I avoided using any of my military benefits. I paid for and used my civilian company’s benefit programs to the fullest. Something inside of me made me think I was less deserving than those currently serving. Then, I remembered what someone told me just before I left the service back in 1994: “You earned this, so it is ok!” (He was referring to my VA Physical which officially documented my hearing loss. Nearly 20 years later in 2013, I finally broke down and went to the VA after spending thousands of dollars on hearing aids, treatments, and check-ups within the civilian medical community trying to hear better.)


Now that you know how I feel and what I felt, let me tell you what I found at this particular USO:


  • A warm welcome by people who truly care about the well-being of our Men & Women in Uniform. All this demonstrated by each person there asking then calling you by name.


  • A guided tour of the USO Center. I was amazed at how big the place was, but more importantly, the time spent by the USO Center Staff to make you feel comfortable during your visit.


  • Internet access is available along with printers and everything you need to handle your personal affairs. If you need to knock out a quick email, do an online video chat, print your boarding pass, or send some important documents via fax, they’ve got the office technology to do it. (This USO had approximately 5 computer kiosks that provided a bit of privacy to conduct your business efficiently.)


  • Video games in various corners of the USO Center. Many of the Veterans came in and relaxed while playing one of the games within a huge selection available.


  • Movies and a small movie theater with popcorn. This was a nice setup with comfortable chairs and a wide variety of films to watch.


  • Food, food, and more food! Need I say more? I even had someone hand me a few snacks for the flight. Sure beats the usual peanut diet found on planes these days! (Think “Pogey Bait”!)


  • An opportunity to connect with other Veterans and just talk about life.

If you haven’t been to a USO Center, I’d like to encourage you to do so!  A lot of thought and care went into the USO Center experience.


Have I been back to a USO Center since then? Admittedly, no I haven’t. Upon return from my recent journey flying the friendly skies, I took the down escalator to baggage claim and saw the location of my second USO Center visit out of the corner of my eye.


What did I do as I saw a number of Veterans enjoying a much-deserved break from the path they chose?

I smiled and remembered that so many people provide so many things to show their continued support for our Men & Women who serve – the most deserving.

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Limitless Contributor

Is writing this sort of thing your primary job? How much are you paid to write this?

After 20+ years in the Army, whenever I have to wait at an airport, my first question is "where is the USO?" If you've never been, you are missing out on one of the best nonprofit organizations that that is totally worthwhile. Most of the people I have encountered are all volunteers. If you don't get it, then you don't get it. For those of you who do, enjoy, relax, make some friends, and have a nice trip.
Community Manager
Community Manager

Well said Gospel Trumpeteer! Sounds like a great place for you to play your Horn too! A new USO Tour?Hmmmm.