Philadelphia airport opens larger lounge for military families in transit

The United Service Organizations (USO) of Pennsylvania and Southern New Jersey on Wednesday opened a new 4,600-square-foot facility at Philadelphia International Airport that’s like a first-class lounge for military families.

The Liberty USO center, relocated from Terminal A-East to the top of Terminal E, has a full restaurant-style kitchen, men’s and women’s bunkrooms, a family playroom, theater-style seats that are practically beds, showers and quasi-concierge services. It is staffed by volunteers of the nonprofit.

Camera icon TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer
Air travelers pass the new USO facility at PHL’s Terminal E.

The Philadelphia facility is expected to handle about 100,000 visitors a year, and is open to all active duty service members, reservists, National Guard, dependent family members, and retirees.

“By having a place just for service members allows them to escape the stress of traveling and to decompress,” Chellie Cameron, airport CEO, said in a statement. “They can also get a home-cooked meal served by our volunteers at the Liberty USO.”

Camera icon TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer
The new USO facility has theater-style seats where travelers can relax.

The volunteers also provide transfer services to new enlistees going to the U.S. Coast Guard Training Center Cape May and to Gold Star families traveling to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware to receive inbound remains of military.

Such USO lounges are in 191 airport locations in Europe, Asia, and the U.S.

The USO was formed in 1941 and is chartered by Congress. It is perhaps best known for organizing live entertainment shows in the field to boost the morale of servicemen and women.

The airport grand opening was attended by Cameron, Mayor Kenney, National USO Board Chairman Ryan Peters and National USO Vice President of Operations Glenn Welling.

Camera icon TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer
Volunteer Gail Persichilli of Riverside N.J. peeks out of the kitchen at the new Liberty USO center at the airport.