A retired military man traveling through Philadelphia ran across a USO center at the airport and liked what he saw.
It had showers, bunks, a lounge area and a welcoming atmosphere for service members, recalled Barry Lingle.
Later, when he arrived at McCarran International Airport, he spotted a lone soldier sitting in a dark corner.
"My feeling was: What is wrong with us that we don't have a facility for men and women?" Lingle, 70, said.
That will change soon.
After years of false starts, a much-anticipated USO lounge will open within six months in a vacant space at McCarran.
USO officials recently inspected a former U.S. Airways executive suite and determined that it could be quickly converted to a rest stop for traveling military personnel.
"I can't imagine it will be open later than September," USO spokesman John Hanson said.
The project should go out to bid by May and renovation should be under way by summer, Hanson said. It probably will cost considerably less than the USO's initial $1.5 million estimate, because the former suite already has some amenities, he said.
Peter Christoff, a veterans' advocate, argued that the 2,000-square-foot space needs little more than new carpet and a coat of paint.
It has restrooms, utility hookups, lounge areas and a snack bar with a counter and refrigerated deli case, he said.
Hanson said he wasn't sure whether showers could be installed there, and those might not be necessary.
McCarran could arrange to have a nearby hotel provide showers, he said, noting that in Chicago, an area Hilton offers that service to the military.
USO officials will put together an advisory committee that will include veterans' advocates, business people and military officials, Hanson said. The panel will deal with any issues that come up during construction and in running the center.
Earlier attempts by veterans' groups to create an airport rest stop for the military stalled, causing frustration.
In November, Commissioner Steve Sisolak brought together veterans' advocates and politicians to amp up the effort. In January, Sen. Harry Reid and USO officials announced the military welcome center would materialize at the airport.
At the time, Steve Sanson, president of Veterans in Politics, criticized Reid, saying he showed little interest in the center until his polling numbers were down in an election year.
Sanson, a Republican running for Clark County public administrator, just wants the center to open as quickly as possible.
"We all want the same thing, the betterment of veterans coming through McCarran."
Sanson said more than 700 people have expressed interest in volunteering to help veterans, including at the military lounge. Lingle said many retired veterans in the subdivision where he lives are eager to volunteer.
Hanson said recruiting volunteers isn't as hard as finding donors to pay for upkeep, supplies and one or two salaried workers to oversee the center.
USO is careful to choose locations where there's strong public support, he said. "It gets really emotional quickly if we have to close one."
Contact reporter Scott Wyland at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-455-4519.