Renovated USO Center reopens at Honolulu airport
March 19, 2013
HONOLULU -- With the release of a maile lei, Maj. Gen. Anthony Crutchfield, chief of staff, U.S. Pacific Command, alongside USO sponsors, staff and Hawaii's senior military leaders, officially reopened USO Hawaii's renovated Honolulu airport center, recently.
"It had been 30 years since any updates have been made to the center," said Leigh Leilani Graham, area director for USO Hawaii and Guam. "And with the USO being the first impression of Hawaii for many military and their families, it was in desperate need of a makeover."
Open 365 days a year, the USO center at Honolulu International Airport serves more than 4,000 travel-weary military visitors each month, giving most their very first taste of Hawaii, whether they are arriving for a permanent change of station or just a well-earned vacation.
Hawaiian music and the fresh scent of tropical flowers greets guests with "Aloha Spirit" as they walk into the new center, lined with hardwood floors and furnished with Hawaiian wood tables with high-backed, polished wood chairs. Troops can also opt to relax in one of several full body massage chairs designed to ease the strain of travel.
The renovation of this new "island-style luxury" center includes a sleeping room; marble showers and dressing area; a self-serve, gratis refreshment center; large-screen televisions; a keiki area; and true Hawaiian hospitality that welcomes all the senses to the Aloha state.
"USO Hawaii is a beloved institution and an integral part of Hawaii's history," said Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie about the grand reopening. "From welcoming our troops at more than 78 smaller USO clubs all across the islands during World War II, to the state-of-the-art centers we have today, USO has proven the perfect place for our military and their families to enjoy the aloha spirit."
Hundreds of service members and guests witnessed the traditional Hawaiian blessing that reintroduced the community to the facility, which has been closed since the end of November.
Nearly a quarter million dollars in materials and donated manpower came from Lend Lease Corporation, U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii's housing partner. Board member Jerry Schmitz, retired Army, and former commander at Pohakuloa Training Area, was officially recognized as a project leader during the ceremony.
"We understand, firsthand, the value of creating a 'home away from home' for our military families," said Schmitz, a project director for Lend Lease. "It's been a great opportunity for us and our Lend Lease (U.S.) Community Fund to support the USO's efforts in Hawaii."
"Our Honolulu Airport USO is a vital hub for welcoming hundreds of thousands of military and their families from around the globe each year," said Sloan Gibson, USO president. "The opening of this center on USO's 72nd birthday is a milestone for Hawaii and our entire nation in committing our best for those who keep us free."
The USO Center is open seven days a week from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. to serve Hawaii's military community.