PALM SPRINGS, Calif. -- A United Services Organization Center was recently opened in the Palm Springs International Airport to accommodate traveling troops and their families.
The facility is open to active, reserve, former and retired military members and their families from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily, and assists in meeting their needs after those hours, said Roxy Snell, USO volunteer.
The center offers a place to rest and store luggage, refreshments, books, games, playing cards, television, videos, telephones and help with transportation and flight information. The USO also has an agreement with two local hotels to provide rooms to troops that have to spend the night due to delayed flights.
“We try to take care of the troops anyway we can,” said Snell. “We have first-aid kits, calling cards, sewing kits, and if we don’t have what they need, we’ll do our best to make up for it.”
The USO is a Congressionally Chartered non-profit organization that relies on public donations and volunteers to operate. Everything in the room, provided by the City of Palm Springs, was donated, including the sofas, chairs, microwave, television, movies, reading materials and food.
The USO was formed in 1941 when President Franklin D. Roosevelt determined it would be best if private organizations handled recreation of the U.S. armed forces.
During World War II, the USO was a way for the community to participate in the war effort. In more than 3,000 communities, USO centers were established to become the "Home Away from Home," according to the USO’s official Web site, http://www.uso.org.
The center is new and the volunteers are looking forward to future plans and improvements for the center.
“We’re working on getting a big screen TV, internet service and toys for the children,” said Snell.
“We try to make it like their own living rooms,” she continued.
The volunteers, like Snell, are more than happy to be there to make traveling through Palm Springs as comfortable as possible, as well as supporting the troops.
“We love our country,” said Snell. “And they’re giving their lives to fight for it. Not only that, but they are really committed to it.”
Not only is the USO a relaxing area for service members, it’s also a place to find a friendly face in a busy airport.
“I love meeting the service members,” said Dessa Byrd Reed, USO volunteer, who also serves as the public information officer.
Reed is also a book author and public speaker, who enjoys talking with the military personnel visiting the USO, she said.
The USO currently operates more than 130 centers worldwide. There are centers in 10 countries and more than 33,571 volunteers nationwide. There are 33 USO airport centers to help military travelers with connections, foreign language translation, long layovers and missing luggage.
The Palm Springs’ USO center is located near the baggage claim terminals with a volunteer staffed at all times. For more information, log on to http://www.bobhope uso.org or http://palmspringsairport.com.