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:
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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