Friday, September 6th marked the one year anniversary of the USO Welcome Center at Tampa International Airport. One short year ago, USO Tampa Bay became the first USO chartered center to open in over 20 years. Since then, the Welcome Center has served over 13,000 traveling troops and their families. “Every day, we see firsthand the difference that the USO center makes in the lives of our military men and women and their families traveling through Tampa International Airport,” said airport CEO Joe Lopano. “This organization personifies what’s best about Tampa Bay and we are honored to be a member of this partnership.”

The celebration began with an open house in the morning followed by a short ceremony honoring the volunteers and partners who have made this first year possible. After the ceremony, guests had the opportunity to make their way upstairs and assist the USO in welcoming home 13 members of MacDill’s 6th Special Forces Squadron from Afghanistan. Airport personnel, including Vice President of Operations and Guest Services, John Tiliacos and Hillsborough County Aviation Authority Chairman of the Board, Robert Watkins got a personal look at how the USO lifts the spirits of America’s troops and their families. Guests then returned to the Welcome Center for an appetizer reception provided by airport partners, T.G.I. Friday’s and Carrabba’s.

While USO Tampa Bay’s presence is most visible at the airport itself, the USO Welcome Center also serves as the hub from which all USO Tampa Bay programs and services are delivered to our military and their families throughout the year. Within its first year of service, the USO has supported Welcome Home Greetings, Deployment Events and Family Days, kicked off United Through Reading’s Military Program, escorted Families of the Fallen throughout their travels, arranged The Sesame Street/USO Experience for Military Families performances, delivered With You All the Way deployment kits to military children, sent hundreds of calling cards overseas through Operation Phone Home and will soon be opening a USO Day Room at the James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital.

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