By John McCandless
Freedom Center, the military lounge located at Gate A43 at Detroit Metropolitan Airport’s McNamara Terminal, celebrated its first year of operations on November 9, 2012 with the unveiling of a commemorative banner to thank service men and women and veterans for their service to our country.
“During our first twelve months of operations, Freedom Center has hosted more than 30,000 members of our military, their family members and our veterans during their travels through Detroit,” said Senator Patrick Colbeck, (R-7th district) and board member of Michigan Armed Forces Hospitality Center Inc., the non-profit corporation, which operates Freedom Center. “I salute our volunteers and our generous sponsors who have played a tremendous role in making their long travels a bit easier, while thanking them for their service in keeping our country strong.”
Freedom Center opened their doors on November 1, 2011 and was official dedicated on Veterans Day 2011 – 11/11/11 – at 1100 hours. Operated by a dedicated group of volunteers, the lounge offers our traveling military, as well as all veterans, a quiet respite with comfortable couches, recliners, complimentary coffee, juice, soft drinks and bottled waters, snacks, free wi-fi and even a triple bunk bed to grab some shut-eye. Freedom Center operations are made possible by generous financial contributions of corporations and individuals, led by Meritor, Inc. and the Michigan Chapter of the National Defense Industrial Association.
Other major corporate supporters include: OshkoshDefense, Lapeer Industries, Pratt & Miller Engineering, Cadillac Castings, Merrill Technologies Group, Raymond James & Associates, Rent-A-Center, Delta Air Lines, Masco Foundation, Richard and Virginia Vallee, the Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters and Millwrights, Marketing Associates and GraphiColor Exhibits. Additional financial supporters include RAVE Computer and the Arsenal of Democracy Chapter, Association of the US Army.
“Meritor has a long history of supporting the armed services members and their families,” said Tim Burns, vice president, defense, specialty, industrial for Meritor. “We are honored to provide support to our nation’s warfighters and their families as they travel through Detroit. The courageous stories behind the lives of those the Freedom Center serves is both remarkable and unforgettable.”
The commemorative banner unveiled stayed in place until a week after the Veterans Day weekend to permit DTW travelers to express their thanks to our military visitors.
“I applaud Senator Colbeck, Delta Captain Ken Pratt, Navy Captain John McCandless and other board members of the Michigan Armed Forces Reception Center for establishing Freedom Center Military Lounge for our returning heroes and their families,” said Major General Gregory Vadnais, Adjutant General and the Director of Military and Veteran Affairs for Michigan. “A big thanks as well to the Wayne County Airport Authority for providing space and to the sponsors who have given generously to support those who have given so much.”
The Freedom Center is staffed by volunteers seven days a week, 365 days a year. Operating hours are from 6 a.m. until 11:30 p.m. However, many nights Freedom Center has operated around the clock when travelling soldiers, sailors and Marines are stranded due to flight delays or weather issues.
Individuals wishing to make a donation to Freedom Center or become a volunteer can obtain additional information on the Freedom Centers website, MIFreedomCenter.org.
John McCandless retired as a captain in the U. S. Naval Reserve in 1999 and remains an active supporter of the Navy. He is one of the founding members of The Michigan Armed Forces Hospitality Center.