Veterans Corner: USO Northwest helping troops in SeaTac Airport

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On July 21 I went to the SeaTac USO Center with Jerry Rettela, Commander of the Korean War Veterans group. He has been going there monthly for 10 years, taking hot dogs and buns in a red suitcase. The manager, Matt Sult, and executive director Don Leingang, were so welcoming and spent a lot of time explaining what they do for the troops and their families as they pass through the airport.

Active duty orders say “Report to the USO.” There is an app to check in at the front desk. Once in the facility there is a luggage room where suitcases can be stored so if it is a long layover they can catch the light rail and go downtown sightseeing. There are several rows of big, comfy lounge chairs so they can take a nap and relax.

The national USO organization provides laptops for use and there is a wifi hot-spot so they can use their own devices. The bathrooms have showers and all the essentials so they can take showers, wash hair, brush teeth, etc.

Hot dogs are a favorite and they are all beef, quality dogs! To go with the hot dogs, veterans can get a drink, snack on chips and/or cookies, etc., at small tables with chairs. Five volunteers are there to help put out food, clean up, take care of the luggage, check people in and assist when needed.

Matt and Don are veterans themselves and showed a real passion for their jobs. They can always use donations and volunteers at USO Northwest.

Please think about donating to this great organization helping troops and their families during the very stressful time of transferring to new duty stations. They get a place to rest, communicate with families, take a shower, get free food and relax. I saw a lineup waiting to get in!

You can contact Don at dleingang@uso.org or go to northwest.uso.org/sea-tac to learn more.

They also have mobile canteens that can come to a base and do a cookout for the troops. A great organization!

Note: For the next two months, the USO is being remodeled so it will be November before they are back in their regular space on the Mezzanine level above Southwest Airlines ticket counter.

In addition, there will be a Five-Star Gala on Oct. 16 at the Hyatt Regency Lake Washington with featured speaker Master Sgt. Cedric King (U.S. Army-Ret.). Proceeds from the gala support more than 800,000 service members and their families annually.

For more information about the gala, contact Tim Bogle at tbogle@uso.org or 206-719-5662. You can also donate money to Jerry to buy the monthly hot dogs. Contact him at eletteor@msn.com.

Catch a ride

If you need to travel to the Dept. of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) Medical Center in Seattle, the DAV van transports veterans from Sequim, Port Angeles and Port Townsend on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. To schedule a ride, call 206-764-2120 and choose prompt #2. They are not able to transport wheelchairs.

If you can volunteer to be a driver and cover Wednesdays or Fridays, please let them know.

Expanded hours

The Northwest Veterans Resource Center, 216 S. Francis St. in Port Angeles, is open 9 a.m.-3 p.m., Monday through Thursday. They are available to help you with VA claims, financial assistance and give those in need access to the Clothing Closet and Food Pantry.

Bring a copy of your DD-214 to help expedite the process.

The Clothing Closet has gently-used men and women’s clothing, shoes, coats, hats and gloves. The Food Pantry has canned meat, fruit, snacks, and other non-perishable items.

All veterans and their families are welcome to access these items. Call the center at 360-797-1791 for more information.

Contributors: American Legion, Paul Renick, grennanalpost62@gmail.com; MOAA and Voices For Veterans, Lorri Gilchrist, cdrlgilchrist@gmail.com; Marine Corps League, Mark Schildknecht, markisin2day@gmail.com; Korean War Veterans, Jerry Rettela, eletteor@msn.com; VFW 4760, Steve Henrikson, secretary@vfwpost4760.com ; VFW 6787, Rod Lee, sealteam54@q.com.

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