USO provides "home away from home" for military members

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - By Steve Phillips – bio | email

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Plenty of military troops are traveling home this week. Airmen from Keesler and Seabees from Gulfport are among the men and women in uniform catching flights for the holidays.

That means a busy time for the USO, the organization that offers hospitality to our traveling troops. Making them comfortable is what this place is all about, whether it's providing a snack, offering Internet access, or a place to play video games.

On Wednesday, the young men enjoyed a visit with a Miss Mississippi contestant. Biloxi's Jennifer Seymour made supporting the troops her pageant platform. She has a brother in the Air Force.

"The day I won my local title as Miss Riverland, he was actually deployed to Afghanistan for the seventh time. So, it kind of hits home. And hopefully one day, I'm studying pre-med, and hopefully one day I'll join the Air Force as well," she said.

The young airmen appreciated having a relaxing place to wait on holiday flights.

"I've got like a three hour flight to Detroit," said Andrew Galvin, who was headed home to Flint, Michigan.

He's grateful for the USO hospitality.

"I think it's awesome the program they have set up for us. Free snacks, free drinks, Internet. It's awesome while we're waiting for our plane that we have something to do," he said.

Three days before Christmas means a constant stream of military visitors. The USO wants this to be a "home away from home" for traveling troops.

"We're extremely busy this week. We have a mass exodus of Airmen and Navy troops leaving our area, all heading home for the holidays. And we're very happy for them. We see our numbers actually triple during this time of year," said Gulf Coast USO Director Deanna Attaway.

"It's a really nice place. It's a good thing to have when your plane does get delayed you have somewhere to go other than the terminal," said Keesler Airman Samuel Lawver.

The USO hospitality was especially appreciated by those service members who experienced flight delays Wednesday.  And there were several such delays on that very busy holiday travel day.

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