By Spc. Matthew DiazMay 13, 2010
FORT DRUM, N.Y. - Everyone knows air travel can be a hassle - rushing across a massive airport to arrive at your gate just in time to find your flight has been cancelled. For military travelers, the experience can be especially stressful. Many service members in airports have more than travel on their minds. Long layovers or cancelled flights can add to the anxiety of returning to combat or reporting to basic training.
Sometimes a troop just needs a place to relax and forget about the stresses of travel. The Albany International Airport intends to help with that.
The Capt. John J. McKenna IV Military Courtesy Room was officially dedicated during a ceremony April 28 at the airport.
The room was dedicated to Capt. John J. McKenna IV, a Marine and former New York state trooper, who was killed Aug. 16, 2006, while serving in Fallujah, Iraq.
McKenna was commissioned in the U.S. Marine Corps in 1998. He left active duty in 2003 to become a state trooper. In light of the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, McKenna decided to serve his country yet again in 2005.
During a patrol in Iraq, McKenna's unit came under sniper fire. His point man, Lance Cpl. Michael Glover, was downed by a sniper and lay wounded on the ground. McKenna was dragging Glover to safety when he was mortally wounded. He was posthumously awarded the Silver Star for his actions.
Spearheading the effort to create the room was McKenna's father, John McKenna III. He said he wanted to make travel less stressful for military personnel.
"Many troops pass through (the Albany) airport on their way to or from Iraq and Afghanistan," McKenna said. "This is stressful travel, and I want to loosen the straps of their burden.
"Never again do I want to see a troop sleeping on the floor," he added.
Everything in the room was donated by businesses, and all of the 100-plus staff members in the courtesy room are volunteers. Each volunteer does a four-hour shift once every two weeks. McKenna visits two to three times a day to make sure everything is running smoothly.
More than 400 service members have passed through the room since its soft opening. Each visitor is welcome to free refreshments, Internet access, cable TV and comfortable chairs.
On hand at the ceremony was Col. John Sims, 10th Mountain Division (LI) fire and effects coordination cell officer in charge. He was there to show Fort Drum's support for the room's opening.
"I'm here to thank (the attendees and volunteers) for this room for our Soldiers," Sims said. "It means a lot to us."
Among those on hand for the ceremony were civilians, state police and Marines from the younger McKenna's former unit. One special guest in attendance was a K-9 named after McKenna.
After all the remarks had been made, attendees were welcome to take a tour of the room and meet with the team that helps the operation run smoothly.
"A lot of people say WWJD - What would Jesus do'" McKenna said. "I say, 'What would John do'' He would've been involved in something to help the troops."