By: M.A.R. Unger
February 4th marked the start of the USO’s 75th Anniversary. Over the years, countless Americans became acquainted with the USO through Bob Hope’s tours. Whether we experienced the show in person or on TV, one look at the smiling faces of the troops told us all that the USO was a home away from home. It brought with it a sense of community.
Celebration events took place at nearly 200 locations worldwide and programs will continue throughout the year. At McCarran International Airport, the Las Vegas USO kicked off the celebrated in style, and why not? For the second consecutive year, it was voted the top facility in the world—a singular honor. The Las Vegas USO serves over 37,000 troops and their family members every year.
In addition, the USO reaches out to another 26,500 local troops and their families, as well as providing family care packages and bringing concerts and live entertainment to Nellis and Creech Air Force Bases. The USO also hosts a Holiday Brunch at Nellis AFB.
Welcoming troops, sponsors, and guests to the 75th Anniversary Open House were McCarran Airport Director Rosemary Vassiliadis, USO Director Tim Mullen, and Mr. Las Vegas, Wayne Newton. Other entertainers joined in the festivities, including David Copperfield and the cast of Menopause the Musical.
USO Celebrity Chairman Wayne Newton began his long association with the USO at about age seven when he performed at the White House. He was instrumental in establishing McCarran’s USO. He often relates how he used to walk through the airport and see members of the military sleeping on the floor. Their flights had been cancelled or rescheduled. Through his efforts and those of Senator Harry Reid and the Las Vegas community, the USO lounge in Terminal 1 opened its doors on Veterans’ Day 2010. A second USO location opened in Terminal 3 in 2014. Both provide a welcome 24 hours a day.
What does the USO mean to today’s military? Nellis AFB Sergeants Steven Kane and Bryan Stevens put it best. The USO offers a place to relax, “chill out,” have snacks, and escape the chaos of airports. For children of military families in transit, it’s a place for games, books, toys, and togetherness.
If you have not visited the award-winning Las Vegas USO at McCarran, take time to get acquainted. Volunteers will provide a tour and tell stories of their own personal connections to the organization. For information, phone: (702) 261-6590.
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