Pat Tillman Center Dedicated At Bagram
By Kent Harris
Stars and Stripes
April 4, 2005
BAGRAM AIR BASE, Afghanistan — Sunday marked the opening of the 123rd United
Service Organizations center around the world. This one is a bit different than
The Pat Tillman USO center is named for the former Arizona Cardinals safety
who put his NFL career on hold to join the
Army after the Sept. 11, 2001,
terrorist attacks. He was killed in Afghanistan in 2004 while serving with the
Army Rangers. After his death, Tillman was promoted to corporal.
The facility, adjacent to the passenger terminal, is also the nicest place on
"It's beautiful," said Pfc. Jamie Smith, who will be heading back home in a
month. "I love the design."
Her friend, Spc. Winnie Mancil, nodded her head in agreement while taking a
bite out of a hot dog at the center's grand opening.
"It'll be a nice place for everyone to come and forget about where they are
and just relax and enjoy themselves," she said.
Gail Camillo, vice president for operations for USO-Europe, said she and the
organization are particularly proud of this center. It joins USO operations in
Qatar, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates. Iraq might be next.
"Each one, I say it's the nicest one yet," she said, adding that every one
was a little different. "But there's always going to be free coffee and there's
always going to be the welcome."
Keith Coyne will be the center's director and only full-time employee. He's
going to be a busy man, with the idea of keeping the building open around the
The building features a pair of large-screen televisions — one upstairs from
the other — surrounded by couches. One of Tillman's jerseys hangs on a wall in
the largest room. There's another room with six video game stations. And another
with phones for morale calls. That's next to some toilets that flush — still an
uncommon sight in Afghanistan.
There's also a cafe serving drinks and snacks. AAFES plans to operate a small
store in another room designed to meet the needs of those getting ready for long
flights around or out of the country.
"It's a great day for the USO and we think it's a great day for the troops
who are going to pass through here," said John Hanson, senior vice president of
marketing and communications.
The National Football League paid for the majority of the construction and
furniture for the building, providing the USO with a $250,000 donation to build
the center and fund future activities.
It did so to honor the sacrifice of Tillman, who lost his life serving his
country. Tillman, who turned down a multi-million dollar NFL contract when he
enlisted in 2002, was killed last April in a friendly-fire incident near Khost.
Pete Abitante, senior director for International Public Affairs for the NFL,
read a letter from Tillman's widow, Marie, during the dedication:
"Pat was honored to serve beside you and we are pleased you will see his name
every time you enter this facility."
Sound Off...What do you think?
Join the discussion.
This article is provided courtesy
of Stars & Stripes, which got its start as
a newspaper for Union troops during the Civil War, and
has been published continuously since 1942 in Europe and
1945 in the Pacific. Stripes reporters have been
in the field with American soldiers, sailors and airmen
in World War II, Korea, the Cold War, Vietnam, the Gulf
War, Bosnia and Kosovo, and are now on assignment in the
Stars & Stripes Website
Copyright 2005 Stars and Stripes. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.