I think there’s a recurring theme happing here on my site…our military. As an Army Reserve soldier, I enjoy many of the benefits that servicemen receive, and a few that we have to seek. I’ve always felt the best “benefits” are not those provided by our government (PX privileges, education, etc.), but those provided by people who simply like to support our military. As a guy who gets to see the inside of lots of airports, the USO (Uniformed Servicemen Overseas) is one of the best benefits around. I make it a point to seek out the USO whenever I can, and recently found a hidden gem of a USO at DFW.
DFW already has the best USO in the country (OK, I’m not qualified to say that, but it is really good) at Gate B15, but they now have a satellite USO at Gate D22 that rocks. At the main DFW USO you can get free food, a great lounge, internet access, bag storage, books, musical instruments, and comraderie, but now there is a satellite USO that is a much smaller version of the main one, but it still has much of the good stuff at the main one. The best USO’s are INSIDE security (not outside, as no solider wants to go through security twice! ) which is a HUGE benefit. They are also always filled with volunteer folks who care for the soldiers. I’ve been to a lot of other USO’s, but DFW easily wins the award for setting USO standards…they are really good!
My habit when visiting a USO is to get a bowl of oatmeal, a few ice cream bars, a box of Thin-Mint Girl Scout Cookies, and a bottle of water. Yes, that is splurging, but they cannot give out partial containers of anything, and so I have to get the full box of cookies. I always give out a sleeve of cookies to whomever I sit with on the airplane, and I always tell them where I got them. Then, after my belly is full, I scrounge for a good recliner, and simply relax. It is really nice!
So…as a soldier who has an opinion…if you want to help soldiers at airports, here’s a list of stuff that can be done at airports that we like:
1. Support the USO financially
2. Say “thank you” to a random soldier.
3. Ask where they are going and what they do in the military.
4. Pick up the dinner ticket for a soldier in the food line.
5. Introduce your kids to “a hero” and tell your kids about the patches that the soldier wears (you’ll have to do some investigative work, but that’s good for you). Tell your kids that this is the kind of person to “look up to”.
6. If you own a business, offer a 10% discount to card-bearers (I promise you it’ll get noticed and lots of references). Lowe’s, Home Depot, many movie theaters, and a bunch others do this.
7. Give them a book or magazine that you think they’d like.
8. Trade seats with them on the airline if yours is better and they are bigger physically than you.
9. Volunteer at the USO
10. Simply smile at them…without being weird, just let them know you see them in uniform and you think that is cool.