MOON TOWNSHIP, Pa. (KDKA) — On the birthday of the United States Marine Corps and just one day before Veterans Day, a new center for military members opened Wednesday at Pittsburgh International Airport.
The United Service Organizations said the lounge is the first-of-its-kind in western Pennsylvania, and it hopes the area will be a beacon for soldiers and their families — both as they return and leave home.READ MORE: Protest Held Outside Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald's Home Hours Before COVID-19 Vaccination Deadline For Employees
“The USO Center is the lifeline for families that end up in those situations,” Air Force veteran Christopher Plamp said. “They’re the lifeline for a young soldier, sailor, airman, marine, now guardian for the space force that finds themself on the way to basic training and it’s their first time away from home.”
The largest military service organization in the United States has touched down in Pittsburgh. Leaders hope the new military space can act as a home away from home.
“Centers like these are really great for service members. Gives them a place for rest or refuge,” said Travis McNichols, the senior vice president of Public Safety, Operations and Maintenance for the Allegheny County Airport Authority. “Somewhere they can go for a familiar face or a private moment and really to prepare for either leaving for deployment or coming back from deployment.”READ MORE: 5,000-6,000 Gallons Of Gas Spilled Into Washington County Stream
The lounge is equipped with TVs, gaming consoles and anything needed to ease the mind. There are also private areas.
Jake Kwin, a brigadier general, has racked up flight miles being in uniform for more than two decades. He said USO lounge centers have always helped him feel comfortable in new spaces.
“Those journeys in transit are always a little difficult, especially when you’re going to places that you might be put in harm’s way,” said Kwon. “That ability to rest and get your mind right before you get to business is always a good thing.”
The same goes for Joann Shultz, who said she’s experienced first-hand how much it helps.
“This is far more than a lounge. It’s a place our men and women can come for support from the moment they swear an oath until the time they wear their uniform for the next-to-last time,” said Shultz.MORE NEWS: Liquor Control Board Report Reveals Unflavored Vodka As Top-Selling Drink In Pennsylvania
The USO said it expects more than 1,000 service members to walk through the doors.