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Escape to New York

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Zachary Cacicia
  • 436th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Last week, if you were to ask me what I knew about the USO, a few things would have come to my mind: Bob Hope of course, but also their centers at major airports and military installations, their seemingly unlimited supply of Girl Scout cookies, Bob Hope, care packages for deployed troops, morale boosting travelling tours featuring popular entertainers, Bob Hope and did I mention Bob Hope?

Now, I've always greatly appreciated what the USO stands for and what they do for all service members, to include myself. But what they did for me and several other service members this past week by far exceeds anything that I would have ever expected.

From Wednesday, Oct. 8, to Saturday, Oct. 11, 2014, 10 Team Dover Airmen, to include myself, and one sailor from the Joint Armed Forces Reserves Center - New Castle, Delaware, spent our time on an all-inclusive getaway to New York City.

The individuals who went on this trip were chosen because they all work in part with the Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations and the dignified transfers that occur at Dover AFB. I was picked to go because I provide photo support for dignified transfers.

The itinerary for this "escape to New York," was jammed packed. Arriving Wednesday evening, we checked into our chic hotel, Row NYC, which happened to be only a block away from Times Square. That night we ate at the famous John's Pizza. It was some of the best pizza I have ever eaten in my life, and trust me; I am a bit of a pizza aficionado.

The next day, we went on a bus tour of lower Manhattan, viewing the sites and historic neighborhoods, before eating lunch at Stout, a restaurant located right outside of Madison Square Garden. This is where I ate probably the best chicken pot pie of my life. I wouldn't call myself a chicken pot pie aficionado, but I'm a big fan.

The highlight of the trip for me was that night when we attended a recording of "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart." The experience was absolutely hilarious. The guest that night was actor Jeremy Renner, who discussed his new film, "Kill the Messenger." After the recording, our group was taken to the studio's greenroom to meet Jon Stewart. He was very personable and talked to us for about 15 minutes. He is a really great guy, who has done a lot with the USO.

We concluded Thursday with dinner at the Italian restaurant Tony Di Napoli's. The family style meal included some of the best spaghetti and pasta that I've ever eaten..

Friday was the busiest day of the excursion. We started the day at the 9/11 Memorial Museum, touring the site and museum. Though I was only 11 years old when the attacks occurred, visiting the site brought back memories of that day, especially since I grew up only 35 minutes away from the Flight 93 crash site in Pennsylvania. I highly suggest to everyone, that if you find yourself in New York City, visit the 9/11 Memorial Museum. You will not regret it.

We then walked over the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, where we had lunch with prominent bank officials who were also military veterans. After lunch we toured the bank's museum and its famous gold vault, located 80 feet below street level. This vault contains the highest concentration of gold in the world, more than Fort Knox. It houses more than 550,000 gold bars, worth hundreds of billions of dollars.

We concluded Friday with dinner at Cielo at the Mayfaire and a Broadway show, "Mama Mia." This was the first Broadway show I have ever seen. Before seeing it, I wasn't exactly sure if I would like it or not. But seeing it, I became a fan; I was thoroughly entertained. We received the additional perk of going backstage upon the conclusion of the show, meeting a few of the actors.

Overall, the whole experience was absolutely awesome and I would like to thank the USO, but I would like to individually thank Bill Flanders, USO Delaware center operations supervisor, Erin Johnson, USO Arlington program's manager, Pat Walsh, USO Metropolitan New York manager of programs and services, and Ray Kennedy, USO Metropolitan New York vice president programs and services, for everything they did to make this trip happen for myself and the others on the trip.