JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A spot that has been a post-flight comfort area for active service members, retired military, and their families has closed their doors for good.
“I was wondering, ‘What are these guys gonna do now while waiting to go to their base?’” volunteer and veteran Bob Henning said.
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The United Service Organizations’ nonprofit lounge at the Jacksonville International Airport is no more. Henning said he wasn’t notified and had just learned about it on Tuesday.
He said the lounge helps make life easier for service members.
“Say their flight gets cancelled, say they come in 7 in the morning for a flight that gets postponed until 4, they have a place to come in and relax, we have TVs, couches, easy chairs, snacks and drinks for them in there,” Henning said. “They feel safe, they can put equipment in there so if they need to go some place real quick, they can leave all their gear in there.”
USO sent us the following statement about the closure:
“The USO, like other non-profit organizations, routinely evaluates activities to ensure our resources have the greatest positive impact possible. As a result of our recent evaluation of center operations, it was determined that the airport lounge based in the Jacksonville International Airport will close. We are proud to continue serving service members and their families at installations and communities across Jacksonville. While the lounge is closing, we will continue to provide services, such as support for Dignified Transfers of our fallen heroes at Jacksonville International Airport.”— -Dan Drummond, Director, Communications and Social Media, USO
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Among several questions, Action News Jax followed up asking specifically what in the evaluation was the reason that led to the closing, how much money USO saves from this, where will the money go to next and what exactly is being prioritized now. Action News Jax is still waiting on a response.
It should be noted JIA said that USO didn’t pay for their space at the airport.
Henning hopes the additional funding goes to the other Jacksonville locations.
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“There’s one at Naval Air Station and one at Mayport so I would imagine whatever funding we were going will go to support those units,” he said.
Henning said the daily average of service members stopping in when he’s there is between 20-40 people and added it was a welcoming for many of them.
“Just the presence of having the lounge there to show respect for them and thank them for the job they do, even though most the volunteers were former military but we have a lot of volunteers who weren’t,” he said.
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