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Renovated USO Hawaii Makes for Even Warmer Welcome for Troops

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

By Joseph Andrew Lee 

With the release of the maile lei Monday, Army Maj. Gen. Anthony Crutchfield, other military leaders, USO sponsors and staff officially re-opened USO Hawaii’s renovated Honolulu Airport Center. 

“It had been 30 years since any updates were 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.”

Hawaiian music and the fresh scent of tropical flowers greets guests with what locals call “aloha spirit” as they walked into the refurbished center, which is lined with hardwood floors and furnished with Hawaiian wood tables with high-backed wood chairs.

The renovation of this new island-style luxury center includes a sleeping room, marble showers, a dressing area, a free refreshment center and large screen televisions. There’s also a keiki area – or children’s area – where kids can play while waiting for flights.

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 first taste of Hawaii, whether they are arriving for a permanent change of station or just a well-earned vacation.

“USO Hawaii is a beloved institution and an integral part of Hawaii’s history,” Gov. Neil Abercrombie said in a statement released to coincide with the ceremony. “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, [the] USO has proven the perfect place for our military and their families to enjoy the aloha spirit.”

Of course, USO Hawaii couldn’t give the airport center a facelift without help from generous donors. BAE Systems, Lockheed Martin and two anonymous donors from Texas provided seed money for the project. Then, the Lend Lease Corporation – a defense contractor – stepped in with a cash donation and then recruited subcontractors to donate time and materials to complete the project.

Hundreds of troops and guests in attendance enjoyed emcee Billy V. of Hawaiian 105 “Da Kine” and music from legendary Hawaiian performer Henry Kapono as the center was blessed in a traditional Hawaiian ceremony and reintroduced to the community. The center had been closed for renovations since the end of November.

The center will be open daily from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. 

“Our Honolulu Airport USO is a vital hub for welcoming hundreds of thousands of military and their families from around the globe each year,” USO President Sloan Gibson said in a release to mark the occasion. “The opening of this center on the USO’s 72nd birthday is a milestone for Hawaii and our entire nation in committing our best for those who keep us free.”

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Photo caption: USO Hawaii guests release the maile lei on Monday to mark the re-opening of the USO center at Honolulu International Airport in Hawaii. (USO photo) 

* Shop USO Wishbook to donate funds that helps more troops and families enjoy the programs and services that the USO offers worldwide.  

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