Though the USO won’t be involved, there still could be a lounge for U.S. military travelers at McCarran International Airport in the near future.
On Monday, American Legion District 2, which represents posts in Southern Nevada, decided to take over the push to allocate space in the county-owned airport for a rest stop for soldiers.
Randall Walker, Clark County’s director of aviation, said no decisions have been made yet. There’s always been strong support for the idea, but Walker said he had yet to see a formal proposal.
“We would certainly be interested,” he said. “But until I see something, I don’t know what we’re talking about.”
Legion commander Cliff Adele said he has organized supporters of the concept to show up at the Clark County Commission’s Oct. 16 meeting. He also is trying to contact county commissioners prior to that meeting.
“What an asset Las Vegas would have by doing this,” he said. “Not only are we the entertainment capital of the world, but we care about our soldiers.”
A two-year campaign for a United Service Organizations club at McCarran ended this summer when the USO decided a Las Vegas location is not a high priority.
That led Chuck Lombardo, one of the original organizers of the effort, to look elsewhere for support. He found it in the American Legion.
“I’m doing everything I can to stoke it,” Lombardo said Monday. “If the USO’s dropped out, why should we lose the opportunity to offer our soldiers some serenity at the airport?”
Lombardo, an airport employee and Air Force veteran, started lobbying for the idea after witnessing soldiers struggling through long layovers and sleeping on the floor.
He approached USO, and initially the plans fell into place, but they wound up on the back burner. The organization is too busy providing services in Iraq and Afghanistan and reacting to major shifts in armed services personnel, a spokesman said. The USO also is not planning to open any new facilities in airports.
The scuttled plans called for moving an existing VIP lounge at McCarran so the space could be redesignated as a place for traveling soldiers to rest, clean up and wait comfortably for their travel connections.
Walker said he didn’t have a firm estimate as to how many military travelers go through McCarran on any given day, but he said the airport sees its fair share of them.
Adele talked about a facility open to active-duty military, veterans and their families, but Walker stressed that the USO’s plan was for active duty military personnel who were “transiting through the airport.”
“Obviously we’re willing to entertain a proposal, but it’s got to be along the same structure as before,” Walker said.
Contact reporter Alan Choate at email@example.com or (702) 229-6435.