Thousands of military men and women have made their way to the third floor in the Albany International Airport. It's where they can find comfort in honor of a fallen Clifton Park Marine. As holiday travel begins to pick up, our Beth Croughan has more on how this service aims to help.
COLONIE, N.Y. -- "Holidays will always be a tough time. That empty seat at the table," said John McKenna III.
This will be the seventh holiday season McKenna III has spent without his son, Marine Captain John McKenna IV, who was shot and killed in Iraq while aiding another.
But it will be the third holiday season McKenna will spend helping other members of the military at the Albany International Airport.
"It's always an emotional time, if you see them going, especially if you know they're going into a hostile area," he said.
Since its March 2010 opening, more than 11,500 soldiers, sailors, airmen and women and Marines have made themselves comfortable inside the Captain John J. McKenna IV Military Courtesy Room at the Albany International Airport and McKenna estimates more than 500 will fill chairs there in the next month or so.
"Usually our busiest day is usually the second of January. Where we actually had a room on the secure side of the airport and where the room is now on the unsecure side," he said.
And if those soldiers get stranded, there's a place for them to stay.
"Their flight was delayed or canceled and you see them kind of sleeping all over the place, which is heartbreaking. So what we wanted to do is we wanted to kind of take that military courtesy room one step farther," said Carney McGuire, the Director of Sales and Marketing at the Hilton Garden Inn Albany Medical Center.
The Courtesy Room has partnered with the Albany-based BBL Family of Companies, which includes BBL Hospitality.
"In 2010, Leslie Miller, who is our Director of Sales up in Saratoga and the Residence Inn, she lost her son in Afghanistan," explained McGuire.
Together, they've expanded the room and have provided a night at a hotel for nearly 100 military members. They plan to continue to work to take the stress out of traveling, especially holiday travel, for our country's servicemen and women.
"Whenever we send the youth of our nation into harm’s way, we have a patriotic and a moral obligation to take care of them whenever we can," said McKenna.