Dig deep into your wheeled luggage for those unused hotel shampoos, lotions and other sundry goods.
Those travel-size treasures can make a world of difference to troops overseas.
A new donation program at McCarran International Airport will station collection bins near the airport's security checkpoints. The donations will head to USO Las Vegas, a private, nonprofit organization that supports the troops by providing them the comforts of home as they pass through the airport. That includes new and unused items, which might be too large or are rejected at the checkpoints by TSA agents for other reasons.
About 35,000 military personnel will have passed through the airport by year's end, said Doug Bradford, director of USO Las Vegas. The year-old airport lounge, just outside the A and B gates, is one of three USOs nationwide that is open 365 days a year.
In October, Clark County employees at McCarran, Henderson Executive Airport, North Las Vegas Airport and the downtown government center conducted a test run of the Sundries for Soldiers drive, collecting about 1,500 pounds of goods including movies, magazines, travel-size toiletries and beef jerky, among other items.
Rosemary Vassiliadis, deputy director of aviation, said the idea for the program came about only recently when the group's stockpile was running low.
"We had a reality check a couple of weeks ago when a couple of my employees came to me and said the cupboards were actually bare," Vassiliadis said. "That's how many troops are going through right now. We want to make sure that never ever happens again."
One of the most requested items on the Warriors' Wish List is Silly String, a popular party favor that releases a colored sticky foam substance, which can be used by troops to mark tripwire from hidden explosive devices. Panty liners can be substituted for moleskin, which protects against painful friction and can prevent blisters. Tampons also are frequently requested because they can be used to clean the barrel of a rifle.
"These are little things that go to such great use," Bradford said. "When they make the sacrifices they do for us, and the little things we can do to make their lives that much better, it's for the common good. We'll continue to support them on the home front."
Army Sgt. Brian Gonzales was all smiles as he relaxed with his wife at the USO on Monday. The 21-year-old returned two weeks ago from an 11-month deployment in Afghanistan, where he helped coordinate movements of ammunition and food to combat soldiers in the field.
Gonzales said he always hits up the USO for shavers and shampoos.
"At all the other airports, that's the first place we go when we're traveling on orders," said his wife, 2nd Lt. Reelana Gonzales. "We're happy Las Vegas has this place to hang out."
Soon, 1,100 square feet of space will be added next door to build a new studio, which will be used by military personnel to record messages for their families or capture time spent with relatives seeing them off. The footage then will be sent to relatives.
Army reservist Sgt. Michael Lohmann crammed a piece of velvet cake into his mouth as he celebrated the USO's first anniversary and the county employee donations. He spent six years on active duty stationed in Oklahoma and Hawaii and was once away from his family for 10 consecutive months.
Lohmann said he appreciated USO Las Vegas incorporating a "From Sea to Shining Sea" themed studio into its services for troops.
"You miss out on baby learning first words," Lohmann said. "You miss out on baby learning to walk. You miss out on birthdays and holidays. When you miss out on that stuff, you've got an emptiness inside. All you want to do is get home and see your family."
Contact reporter Kristi Jourdan at email@example.com or 702-455-4519.