Airlines, even the USO, give little respect to veterans

Matt Quijas


SAN DIEGO — Newly-minted veterans are in for a shock.  Once they’re out, they’re out, at least as far as airlines and USO’s are concerned. Having recently completed my service as a sergeant in the Marine Corps, coming under fire in Afghanistan, I learned that the hard way.

At the San Diego airport, I found that various hygiene products in my bag required me to check it in, rather than carry it aboard. It has been my experience, in the past, that I could check one bag free, but now  the airline had a $20 fee.  The lady assisting me  asked if I were in the military.  I explained I was a veteran and not on active duty anymore. She said only active-duty members were eligible to take a bag without charge.

I quickly called for someone to come retrieve my hygiene gear worth well over $150 and went on my way.  I did not want to let this impede my enjoyment of my trip home to Kansas City.

On my return trip to San Diego, I had a layover in Denver for several hours. During that time my cell phone died; being the smart guy I am, my charger was not on my person.  I remembered while in the military there were USO’s at various airports for military members to relax and wait for their next flight.  I figured the USO would be able to provide me with a resource to charge my dead phone, or at least someone else would be able to help.

At the USO facility an elderly man working check-in asked to see my military id.  I quickly pulled out my veterans card and explained my situation.  For several minutes the old man was hesitant to even let me in.  He explained the USO is for active duty members only.  Luckily there was a nice, understanding lady nearby who hunted down a charger and permitted me to charge my phone.

While charging the phone inside the USO domain, I  felt eerily out of place and unwanted.  After returning  the charger, I approached the elderly gentleman to get a better understanding of why I was not allowed in the USO.

He explained that the USO simply does not have enough funding to support the veteran populace. “There are too many veterans” for the USO to allow them in.  I told him that, speaking on behalf of the veterans, it is very discouraging and pretty much a slap in the face.

My interpretation of both situations was similar to that of the Vietnam veterans in a previous generation.  We sacrifice so much and put our lives on the line for the country we love, but when our time is done, we do not seem to make a difference anymore.  It’s like, “thanks for your time, but since you’re not defending my right to be an American anymore, get in line with the rest.”  I know for a fact there are people still in the military that go their whole careers not seeing a single bit of combat action; furthermore, there are even individuals who deploy to combat zones and never leave their cushy bases.

I asked the man if I were an injured veteran missing limbs, would he let me in?  To my surprise, he answered NO!  He went on to say the only veterans he would consider letting in, if the USO was not too busy, would be a WWII veteran.  I am not quite sure why he said WWII, but it is my assumption that it was because that was his era.

I am simply appalled.  America is a great country and one of the key reasons we are known as a superpower is because of our strong military; its veterans should be embraced for their sacrifices and accomplishments through the years.

Quijas is editor of the GC Summit.  He may be contacted at [email protected]