Veterans make case for airport lounge catering to military

After years of fighting for a military lounge at McCarran International Airport, Las Vegas veterans came one step closer to fulfilling their mission Tuesday when Clark County commissioners agreed to schedule a public hearing on the idea.

The commissioners could not discuss the proposal Tuesday because the subject was not on their agenda. But about a dozen veterans appeared during the public comment period to plead for a lounge where military personnel and their families can relax between flights.

“I witness our vets and other servicemen sitting on the ground in the dust,” American Legion member Jerry Autry told commissioners.

Veterans said they cringed at watching the families of active duty military personnel standing around waiting for flights.

They pleaded for a private lounge where families can wait and traveling military personnel can relax and clean up while waiting for their flights.

The United Service Organizations club has refused to fund a special lounge for service members in Las Vegas, even though Southern Nevada is home to Nellis Air Force base and thousands of military personnel pass through McCarran each year.

America West Airlines initially agreed to provide space for a lounge, but the deal fell through when it merged with US Airways in 2005. The American Legion District 2, which represents Southern Nevada, has since taken up the cause for local veterans and military personnel.

Aviation Director Randall Walker agreed to give the American Legion $750,000 toward a lounge if the organization can match it.

Although the veterans wanted to discuss the proposal Tuesday, Clark County Commissioner Rory Reid asked that an item be placed on a future agenda so the board can better understand where the plan stands and exactly who the lounge will serve.

“The USO kind of turned its nose up at our community,” Reid said. “All we can do today is sit here and nod at each other, and that’s not going to do anyone any good.”

The veterans applauded Reid’s statement.

“We host an Air Force base in this community, and this is long overdue,” Autry said.

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