When Pittsburgh International Airport held a ribbon-cutting and open house Thursday for its relocated Military Lounge on Concourse C, Carol Eiden knew some things wouldn’t change.
The new lounge boasts more room, more amenities and a more modern feel. But for Eiden, who has volunteered at the airport’s Military Lounge since 2008, what counts the most are the connections she makes — and she looks forward to many more in years to come.
“I enjoy all the military people who walk through the door,” Eiden said. “But I’m especially fond of our retired men and women. They enjoy talking about where they were stationed, the people they served with and the pride with which they served our country. It’s especially interesting when we have recruits in the room at the same time. The retirees want to help the kids — give them advice and a pep talk about how they’ll be fine. Some recruits need the encouragement.”
With approximately 900 visitors per month, the Military Lounge had outgrown its previous 937-square-foot location. The new spot, just past Gate C-54, can comfortably accommodate all the active, retired and former members of the United States military and their families that pass through the airport.
Already open for a few weeks, the Military Lounge is winning positive reviews from service members.
“This is a nice space to hang out in while waiting for a flight,” said Susan Bowersox, a retired member of the U.S. Air Force. “It is quiet and clean, and there’s always a friendly face welcoming us into the room.”
The new lounge has many more amenities, including two large-screen TVs, a quiet lounging/napping area, children’s area, baggage storage, kitchenette, integral men’s and women’s restrooms, and a grand view of the airport’s airfield.
In addition to volunteers who staff the lounge, the Allegheny County Airport Authority Charitable Foundation’s Serve-A-Soldier program provides $10 gift certificates to airport concessions, and Hudson’s News and Gifts sponsors the free bottled water provided in the lounge.
In the end, the refreshment and a spot to relax in the midst of a fast-paced airport aren’t the lounge’s main attractions. The people — guests and volunteers — make it special.
“Being able to provide our military men and women a special place for them to relax has been a joyful experience,” said Volunteer Ambassador Gary Smith, who, along with his wife Sandy, has volunteered at the Military Lounge since its opening in 2008. “The smiles and the never-ending ‘thank yous’ make us feel very satisfied. For us, this is a way of giving back for all they do for our country past and present.”