Hancock Airport: A comfortable wait

Servicemen and women wait out long hours at Hancock International Airport when heading home on leave, move to new duty stations or return to their places of deployment. Sometimes they have to spend a night or so at the airport.

Most restaurants and stores close by 9 p.m., so there is no place where he or she can get a bite to eat. The airport is desolate at night. Soldiers don't have a place where they can go relax, have some privacy or unwind.

Many airports across the country have USO-sponsored courtesy rooms where troops can settle in. Rochester, Buffalo and Albany do. Syracuse did not. As many as 50 soldiers a day have to play the game of "hurry-up-and-wait." That's hardly fitting treatment for people who answer the call of duty and was utterly unacceptable to veterans Loren Davies, Gene Leimer and Leroy Bowen.

Davies and Leimer are members of the Emerald City Detachment of the Marine Corps League in Chittenango. Bowen is the Quartermaster of the VFW in Pulaski and an Army veteran of the Iraq War. They worked tirelessly with Syracuse Mayor Matt Driscoll and Aviation Commissioner Anthony J. Mancuso to create a military courtesy room at the airport.

The purpose of the room was to offer active-duty military personnel a comfortable, out-of-the-way spot to sit back, have a snack and wait for their flights.

When it came time to name the room, Davies enlisted the help Mary Ann Reitano. She had read Leimer's blog, cookshack.blogspot.com, and immediately offered her services. Reitano's cousin, Corporal Gregory J. Harris, graduated from West Genesee High School in 1963 and joined the Marines. He was captured in June of 1966. Though his dog tags were returned to the family in June 2007, Harris has never been found.

Like nearly 2,000 of his comrades who served in Vietnam, Harris is classified as Missing in Action. His family is actively pursuing his case with the Department of Defense and his status may be officially changed to Prisoner of War.

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