Sea-Tac Airport USO swamped with soldiers

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by By CHARLOTTE STARCK / KING 5 News

KING5.com

Posted on August 15, 2009 at 2:59 PM

Updated Monday, Sep 21 at 1:13 PM

Video: Sea-Tac Airport USO overwhelmed

SEATAC, Wash. - Thousands of travelers trying to get home for the holidays spent Saturday night sleeping at Sea-Tac Airport, and they could be there awhile.

Among those stranded passengers are many members of the military. The USO office is now a haven of help at Sea-Tac, and they're overwhelmed.

Soldier Brian Merman has lived at Sea-Tac since Friday, when his flight to Cincinnati was cancelled - and last night cancelled again.

"Sat on the runway for three hours before they cancelled it," Merman said. "We had to get out on the middle of the runway and walk to the airport. There wasn't even a gate to pull up to there was so many cancelled flights."

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He finds refuge in the USO lounge, which is swamped with the sleepless.

"The USO, they've been taking care of a lot of military," Merman said. "They've been booked up, over packed. People are sleeping everywhere."

Anthony Cutler has been there for six days for a duty flight to Korea that won't happen soon.

"I have a new address now, Sea-Tac International USO," he said.

Rebooking means some may not get home before Christmas. Merman already missed his dad's Christmas.

"Family Christmas was last night so I missed that," he said. "Spent about two hours last night passing the phone talking to everybody while I'm sitting here."

Which is why USO volunteers make up a military family that each depends on.

"They are so thankful they have a place to sleep and eat for free," USO volunteer Doris Spence said. "And it's not the best, but we always have two kinds of sandwiches and hotdogs and pastries and milk."

Supplies are starting to run thin, they're almost out of bottled water completely. They're accepting donations of bottled water, packaged pastries and hot dogs and buns.

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