USO Needs Help for Stranded Soldiers

6:18 PM, Apr 18, 2010   |    comments
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Smoke and ash rises from volcano under the Eyjafjallajokull glacier in Iceland on April 16, 2010. (AP)

ATLANTA -- Army Staff Sergeant Garth Jenkins is one of hundreds of soldiers who are trying to get out of Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, despite a flight ban in Europe that's affecting military charter flights.

"We just come back here and play this game everyday," said SSG Jenkins, who first reported for a flight to Iraq three days ago. "You're gonna fly, you're not gonna fly, it's the same thing.

Military flights to the Middle East are running a couple of days behind since ash from a volcano in Iceland has shut down airports along the usual routes across Northern Europe.

They're using new routes through Southern Europe instead.

"We don't know how long this will go on," said USO volunteer Carol Austin. "It's Mother Nature, so no one has any control. But we're doing what we can to take care of all these folks who are stranded here."

Donations to the USO have picked up since the center at Hartsfield-Jackson International started extending its hours to accommodate stranded soldiers, as many as 1000 a day.

"This is the first time for a volcano," said Austin, who has volunteered for the USO for 26 years. "We've had hurricanes, snow and ice storms, so we're ready for anything."

This unexpected extension of R&R could give some soldiers more time with their families.

But SSG Jenkins won't go home, even though home is so close by in Dahlonega.

"I already said goodbye to my family," he said. "It's mean to go back and leave, again. It's not right."

The USO is asking for help to make the stay more comfortable for stranded soldiers.

If you can donate bottled water, phone cards or packaged snacks, call 404-761-8061. 

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