Hailed as a “home away from home” for Quad-City area troops and their families, the USO center at the Rock Island Arsenal opened Thursday.
It’s the first USO center in Illinois outside Chicago, which has five, and the only one that serves Iowa’s active service personnel and their families.
“Now, there’s a chance for military families to come and utilize a space to get away and relax,” said Jackie Inman, the Arsenal center director.
She previously served as a family readiness group leader for Iowa Army National Guard units and saw the need for USO services in the Quad-Cities. Her son serves in the Iowa Army National Guard and she has longed for a center like this to serve Iowa and Illinois active service members outside the Chicago area.
USO centers provide programs and services for military personnel and their families from send-offs to homecomings. The new, 2,000-square-foot space on the Arsenal features a meeting space and lounge, reading library and resource center, computer lab with free Wi-Fi, cable TV and gaming console, snacks and refreshments and a children’s play area.
U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Ill., helped kick off the opening of the USO center.
“As someone who comes from a family of those who have served in wartime and peacetime and someone who considers it a point of pride to have former military members on my staff, I will never lose sight of the importance of supporting those who serve,” she said.
The facility was done in a partnership with Army Community Services and Hooah! Quad-Cities, two more organizations that support local military personnel and their families with outreach programs and resources.
“Here we can take care of our troops and their families, and we’re always looking for volunteers,” Tere Pouch of ACS said.
Richard Straub volunteers at the center and said he enjoys meeting active service personnel and hearing their stories.
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“This is the least I can do for the sacrifices they make,” Straub said.
He said his son serves in the military, and whenever he travels, he uses USO centers around the country.
Alison Ruble, president of USO of Illinois, a nonprofit agency providing support for U.S. troops and their families, said she’s “beyond ecstatic” about the new center.
“We really want to be a home away from home,” Ruble said.