(Photo courtesy USO)

More space to lounge at SFO’s new USO

The USO is celebrating its 50th year at San Francisco International Airport in a gleaming new lounge that’s more than double the size of the old one.

The new center opened May 31, but the party really started at Thursday’s open house and ribbon-cutting ceremony, complete with an American flag cake.

The new 4,400-square-foot center sits 290 people with a playroom for families, a quiet room for reading and reflection, a diner with drinks and hot snacks, a gaming area, TV and computers.

Everything inside is free for active and reserve military service members and their families. Around 75 people each day visit the 24-hour center, run by more than 200 volunteers.

Down the hall from the former USO lounge in Terminal 1, the new center is located before security checkpoints on the Mezzanine level. The USO’s move began after the Delta SkyClub vacated the space last year.

Visitors have a good chance of meeting the center director, Monique August, who also pops into the two other Bay Area USO centers at Travis Air Force base near Fairfield and San Jose International Airport.

People can be stressed when they travel, August said, who enjoys “being able to relieve some of that stress, make ‘em laugh and hear their stories.”

Fifty years ago, it was the nation’s first USO center at a commercial airport and is now the Bay Area’s USO headquarters. Most of the 180 USO centers around the world are now at civilian airports with a handful on Air Force bases.

The USO, short for United Service Organizations, is in its 75th year as a private, non-profit organization created to support and entertain members of the military.

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