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Service personnel can kick back at Sky Harbor USO

Bob McClay/KTAR

PHOENIX -- Members of the military who have a long layover at Sky Harbor Airport now have a place to relax while they wait.

The new United Services Organization center in Terminal 4 features cushy chairs and couches, flat-screen TVs, video games, movies, a children's area and more.

"It provides a place for them to sit down and relax, and computers where military members and their families can check their email," said Sky Harbor spokeswoman Julie Rodriguez.

"It also has snacks, little toiletries that they may need, like little bottles of lotion and things, and just a place that they can come and unwind if they have a long layover."

The center had been located in Terminal 2 for a number of years. Rodriguez said it was moved because 80 percent of the airport's passengers go through Terminal 4.

Loretta Nielson of Gold Canyon accompanied her military son to the USO center. She said it provides a way for soldiers from out of town to get in touch with their families.

"I can Skype you, I can email you, I can talk to you," said Nielson. "I'm in a secure environment, a nice clean, wonderful environment where people are happy and people care about you here."

"This is a new world," Nielson said. "There are like, video games and computers here. That's how I can connect."

The center was made possible by donations from American Airlines and Tri-West.

About the Author

Years with the company: I started on January 2, 2006.

Education: I was born in San Antonio, Texas, but we moved to Phoenix when I was one-year-old in 1957. I grew up here and graduated from Alhambra High School and attended Phoenix College.

Family: I live in north Phoenix with my wife Rene' and my son Devin.

Favorite food: Lots of favorite food, but our favorite restaurant is Fajitas.

Favorite spot in Arizona: The Little America Hotel in Flagstaff.

Favorite news memory: We have to go back to October 15, 1979. I was a country music air personality at KROP Radio in Brawley, California, when we had a 6.7 earthquake. Thankfully, there were no deaths and only minor injuries, but the entire community was pretty freaked out and listening to the station on their transistor radios. I would not want to go through an earthquake again, but it sure was a great night to work in radio and see how it can make a difference in people's lives.

First job: Working as a stringer for 'The Arizona Republic' at high school football games. My first real job was flipping burgers at the old Sandy's Hamburgers at 51st Avenue and Indian School Road. My first radio job was as announcer at KALJ radio in Yuma in 1977.

First concert: My Dad took me to see Jimmy Dean at the Arizona State Fairgrounds in the 1960's. It was before the Coliseum was built. The only thing I remember is Jimmy Dean singing his big hit "Big Bad John."

Favorite sports team: Phoenix Roadrunners minor league hockey. My dad took me to a game when I was in grade school, and I was hooked. I wanted to be a radio hockey play-by-play man. I used to take my cassette recorder and sit up in the rafters of the Coliseum and do play-by-play. It was great later in life to also take my son to Roadrunners games. Too bad the team just folded, I'll miss them. (Going to the Coyotes is fun, but they're not "my" team.)

Outside interests: My family and I are active in our church - Shiloh Community Church in Phoenix. Devin is a high school student at Scottsdale Christian Academy. He plays on the baseball, football, and basketball teams and sings in the choir. Obviously, we keep busy trying to go to all his events! We enjoy going to movies, sporting events, and long road trips. We like to vacation at the Beach Cottages in the Pacific Beach area of San Diego. And I love to play catch, basketball, football with my son.


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