USO offers help to military families leaving Japan

The USO desk at the airport. Photo by Jim Mendoza.
The USO desk at the airport. Photo by Jim Mendoza.

By Jim Mendoza - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - As Japan races to restore electricity to damaged reactors at its nuclear power plant in Fukushima, the United Service Organization (USO) in Hawaii has beefed up in anticipation of an influx of U.S. military families fleeing Japan because of the radiation risk.

"We are going beyond our normal hours of operation which would normally be from 8 a.m. to midnight.  We have extended that to 24-7," USO Hawaii director Eva Laird Smith said.

The organization's office at Honolulu International Airport sits between Gates E and F.

Soon volunteers will be manning a kiosk outside the international arrivals area, waving signs that advertise assistance to Department of Defense dependants.

The office has increased staffing in case requests for help go beyond a cup of coffee, a hot shower, and Internet access --- to temporary lodging.

"If they're looking for accommodations by way of staying much longer when they first arrive here, then what the USO is prepared to do is look into our partnerships with the joint bases," Smith said.

TriWest, the Defense Department's healthcare provider, has also set up shop at the USO.

"One of the things that we activated was to have staff here to support families that may be coming from Japan to Hawaii to help answer their questions about military health access, whether it be at the military facilities in Hawaii or at some other providers," said Karl Kiyokawa, vice president of Hawaii operations.

So far only about a dozen Defense Department dependants that left Japan have sought help at the airport office.

The USO also has an office at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.

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