26 years of history with USO Midway Airport
by Linda Steiner and Annette Dixon
Donna Vickroy, Southtown was first to cover the news about a development for USO Illinois back in 1991. The story was about Annette Dixon’s excursion on an afternoon in downtown Chicago. There was an attack on the Island
of Granada and the United States thought we were in war, so the streets were empty, with no cars or pedestrians, but Annette was there and scared. The only thought that entered her mind was “what will happen to her daughter who was in the Navy.” She knew that women could not fight on the front nor be in a submarine, so she knew she was safe but worried about all the men in the military.
So Annette found the USO open and approached Retired Lt. Ralph Eldridge regarding the needs for all the military passing
through Midway Airport. He agreed for her to get petitions
and further the cause by presenting them to the Mayor’s office. Within four weeks and over 100,000 signatures, the Alderman and Mayor Richard Daley voted for the USO to be a tenant within the airport. It was a scary time, but that war lasted three days. Annette did not know
at the time how successful this project would become, but the
timing was with her idea. Later, the Persian Gulf War became a reality and many military personnel passed through Midway, mainly the Navy because of their base in Great Lakes.
Now that the USO became a tenant at the airport, they
needed to build a facility that would be big enough to accommodate the needs of Military Families, also traveling.
So Annette took over and
contacted VFW Johnson Phelps
5220 in Oak Lawn back in the fall of 1990. They in turn connected
her to the Post Commander Jerry Bogaczyk who was a Vietnam Veteran. The membership conducted fund-raising drives for the intention of a fully equipped
kitchen and dining areas of the new Midway Airport USO Center. They raised enough to purchase the wall and base cabinets, tables, chairs, counters, and electrical appliances. Three retired carpenters donated their skills and time to do the necessary installation work. A new tile floor was also purchased and installed by the Oak Lawn Post 5220.
It was in August, 1991, the United Service Organization,
USO was finished and located in the main terminal of Midway Airport. It was Annette Dixon that operated the USO with the help of financing from Amvets, American Legion Posts, VFW Posts and USO Headquarters, since USO, is a private non for profit organization that relies
entirely on donations and volunteers.
On May 31, 1992, the USO Center formally opened, per article in the Southtown Economist, written by Cornelia
Grumman. “That was the kind of service Oak Lawn resident Annette Dixon had in mind when she proposed offering a USO center at Midway Airport during the height of the Desert Storm and Persian Gulf War. On June 6, 1992, Midway USO center will hold an open house to coincide
with the airport’s three day commemoration of the 50th
anniversary of the Battle of Midway during World War II. The center has a director, Marcia Warda, and a staff of two,
Dorothy Krzysiak and Annette Dixon. A three room area with a
large screen television set and videocassette recorder, magazines, books and free coffee, hot dogs, and soda; a children’s room equipped with crib and a kitchen.. This is one of the nicest, cleanliest airport USO’s I have
seen in my 18 years of military service wrote Ted Warywoda,
a Washington, D.C. base serviceman, in the center’s
Ten years later, 2002, Rick Techman wrote, “more than 100
armed U.S. Army military police patrol the Midway Airport
terminal and sensitive buildings on the airport grounds alongside Chicago Police Officers and private airport security personnel to prevent breaches of air travel
safety here since the September 11 tragedies. Now the USO moved and renovation took place in the airport.”
The history of the USO has been established for 75 years and they are celebrating all of 2017. The USO was first chartered by the United States Congress in 1941 as a not for profit charitable corporation and received no direct funding from any level of government.
In Illinois, April 1942 was the first USO at the Central Railroad Station on Roosevelt and Michigan in Chicago, then on May, 1942, they were at 313 S. Wabash. They closed their doors after World War II in Illinois and started up again in July, 1948 during the Korean War. The first one was in Downtown Chicago, then they opened another one
in O’Hare Airport 1969; Great Lakes Naval Base, 1985; USO Midway Airport, August 21, 1991, Navy Pier, 2002; Second USO at O’Hare Airport Terminal 3, in 2010, and lastly Rock Island Arsenal, Moline, 2011.
At USO Midway, there has been several moves, or tear downs. USO is currently located at terminal C. Robert Stone, Director for the past 16 years spoke to Annette Dixon regarding these moves.
Robert stated that more than 2800 military people have
passed through the current location monthly. They are also helping with the military stationed in Puerto Rico, and Houston, TX.
If you can help with your donation to the USO Midway
Airport to support our Military Personnel, it will be greatly appreciated. For more information about Midway
Airport USO, contact Robert Stone at 773-582-5852 from
9:00 to 5:00.