RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) - Airports can be hectic with their long lines and quick connections, but there's a place at Richmond International where military travelers can escape from it all.
The USO Center is tucked away in a corner on the lower level, not too far from baggage claim. It welcomes active duty military members, their families and retirees.
"It's a place of sanction for the military, a place of rest, to recuperate," says Army Specialist Jeromy Nelson who stopped by the USO at RIC before catching a flight home to Texas. He had been at Fort Lee for a month of training and came to this center to connect with other Soldiers and travelers from other branches.
The USO offers free food, along with amenities like computers and video games. There are rooms of recliners where some people read. Others watch movies or just relax.
"We're there to provide support, to provide answers, to provide a safe place to come hang out," explains Center Director Tricia Riggs. She adds that volunteers have served 3,000 people a month since the doors opened at the airport's USO in June 2010. "Everyone who walks through there is an interesting story."
There's a brother and sisterhood at the USO at RIC. All the branches are together in one place. Riggs says it's not uncommon for a Marine flying to Afghanistan to meet up with an Airman moving across the country and a Sailor who's stranded during a storm. "A lot of times flights get canceled so they're stuck here and they may be from the other side of the country, so they're like, 'what are we going to do now? Oh thank God there's a USO here because I have somewhere to hang out.'"
Nelson says the airport's USO has all the comforts of a home away from home, and he especially likes to stop by to feel that family connection that is sometimes missing during busy travels. "Even to go in for 30 minutes. It's still nice to chat with the people who are there. I love the relaxation, the people. It's fun to be around."
The USO of Hampton Roads and Central Virginia always needs volunteers, and it currently needs a van to help transport military members to and from McGuire VA Medical Center. Click here to learn more about how you can help.