USO San Diego set to open new airport center, largest of its kind

Nonprofit group runs through donations

SAN DIEGO - USO San Diego reached out to the military community more than 350,000 times last year, and with a new airport center set to open this week, the nonprofit support group for military members and their families will reach out even more.

The grand opening of the new USO Neil Ash Airport Center at Lindbergh Field is set to open on Thursday. Spanning nearly 10,000 square feet, the facility will be the largest USO airport center in the world.

Active-duty military members and their families and retired military will have a state-of-the-art facility to relax, eat and get away from the tedium of travel.

"It is really the small things the USO does that matters to most in uniform," said Bobby Woods, USO San Diego's director.

Many military members use the city's international airport.

Just this past Saturday, some sailors who were deployed to the Middle East for a year were welcomed home at the airport by a USO volunteer.

"We appreciate that people take time out of their schedule to welcome us home and make our arrival a little better and more special," said Lt. Cdr. Pete Abbott.

Volunteers with USO San Diego have been doing this for as long as U.S. Navy Command Master Chief Mike Fasano can remember.

"The USO was there in 1986 when I got off the plane, and they're here every time I've been back," said Fasano.

The new facility across from Terminal 2 will include an outdoor area complete with barbeques.

The more immediate challenge is getting everything ready to open.

"With the level of 120,000 to 130,000 folks coming through here every year it's going to be a challenge," Woods said, but one the USO is happy to meet.

In the 1940s, comedian Bob Hope began going where few dared, to entertain troops overseas. It's how the USO began.

USO San Diego operates through donations, and every dollar donated to the nonprofit stays in San Diego.

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