RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Television, internet, snacks, and friendly faces -- these are things that await travel-weary troops at the USO center at Richmond International Airport. The center officially opened Monday morning.
"We had a group come in, and they were telling us how great it was to be here in Richmond and to have a USO," said Pat Jordan, the center's director. "It's been missing. We have not had that, and they wanted that, and they needed it."
The center has finally come to life thanks to a group of retired military and business leaders- and an army of volunteers, like Philip and Joyce Ferrante. Their son Joseph serves in the Air Force.
"Wherever he goes, there's a USO there, a friendly face," said Philip. "It's part of their extended family, and that's what we try to be."
The Richmond USO center is opening at an opportune time. With the continuing expansion at Fort Lee, upwards of 3,000 troops a month could soon be passing through the airport.
"We also have troops going in from Fort Pickett, and we expect some to be here from A.P. Hill as well, so the numbers will increase drastically," said Jordan.
The flood of troop traffic will require a year-round effort from staff and volunteers.
"We can be here for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's -- that's when the troops are really going to need somebody, because they're not going to have their family with them," said Joyce Ferrante.
In addition to snacks and entertainment, the staff will also help troops arrange transportation and hotels -- anything to make them feel at home away from home.
"They know wherever they go in the world, all they need to do is find that USO, and they are going to have the services they need and the help they need," said Jordan.