Hundreds of Junior Marines Find Comfort, Support at Raleigh-Durham International Airport USO Center Each Week

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The strain of traveling can take its toll on anyone, especially on our junior service members. In addition to the daily stresses and duties of life in the military, many service members may be traveling far from home and flying for the first time in their lives, or on their way to their first duty station or initial training.

For USO North Carolina volunteers and staff at the Raleigh-Durham International Airport (RDU) USO center, taking care of large groups of service members that travel through their airport is a weekly occurrence.

Each week, over 200 junior Marines who graduate Marine Combat Training (MCT) at Camp Geiger, are bused 2.5 hours to RDU to catch their flights for their follow-on Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) training at military bases throughout the U.S.

USO staff and volunteers at RDU have been serving as special troop handlers for over the past decade, making sure these junior Marines get checked into their flights, are fed and have a safe space to relax and unwind at the USO center at RDU as they wait for their flights, sometimes for hours on end. On overage, the USO staff and volunteers serve over a thousand junior Marines on their way to and from training each month at the RDU USO center.

“Supporting the hundreds of Marines that come through out center here at the RDU airport is the highlight of my week,” said Cathy Sheppard, who has been volunteering at the USO center at RDU for over ten years. “These Marines are so young, and have never flown before, and it warms my heart to be able to help them check their bags and provide an area where they can relax and unwind before their flight.”

USO airport centers are made to provide comfort to the military community on their journeys, no matter where they’re going. In these centers, service members can find everything from free snacks and coffee to a comfy chair to take a quick nap. Most locations, which are typically staffed by friendly and helpful volunteers, feature televisions, video game systems and free Wi-Fi so visitors can use their own devices to check in with loved ones back home.

The USO Southeast Region’s network of airport locations welcome weary travelers and provide resources to ease travel burdens.

“Ensuring our service members and their families feel appreciated and supported is at the heart and soul of what we do,” said Christopher Halsan, Center Supervisor, RDU Airport USO center. “Whether it’s to grab a quick snack, take a nap or connect with a loved using our complimentary Wi-Fi, the USO will always be there for our service members and their families, and we are honored to support the hundreds of junior Marines who travel through our airport center here at RDU each week.”

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