Veteran helps make Pensacola feel like home for young service members

Veteran makes Pensacola feel like home for young service members

He did a stint in the army from 1967 to 1970. Many years later, Ralph Whitmore has found a way to use his time and talent to serve his country again.

Ralph has volunteered somewhere almost all of his adult life. After retirement a friend steered him to the USO's Pensacola International Airport Center.

The perfect place for him to put his friendly personality and people skills to good use.

“They don't know where they're going in the service and what they're going to do for sure and what overseas assignment they might have, and it’s kind of scary,” Ralph said.

He's talking about the young service members coming to Pensacola for training. For many of them, it's the first time away from home.

“Ralph is one of our volunteers on Saturdays who welcomes them, leads them down to baggage claims and makes sure they’re on the bus and safely on their way to NAS Pensacola,” said Beej Davis of USO Airport Center. “He does that selflessly every single Saturday.”

The USO lounge is also a layover station for the troops who are traveling, changing duty stations or going home for the holidays.

“They can stop in and they can get something to eat, get something to drink, relax,” Whitmore explained. “We've got some real comfortable chairs and magazines, books, TV, Xbox games.”

They also get something that Ralph prides himself on being able to give; his genuine interest in people.

“That's important because when they leave they're going to say, ‘You know, that guy that was there, he was pretty nice. He actually listened, sounded like he cared.’ and I’ve always tried to do that,” Ralph said.

“Ralph is definitely one of those, never meets a stranger,” Davis said. “We just rely on being a home away from home for those troops and those service members, those dependents, retirees. When they travel through Pensacola International Airport, we are there for them.”

Ralph's been there for about 800 hours so far this year. He doesn't count the hours. He counts the people.

“If you only affect one person then I felt like I was doing a great job,” Ralph said.

Angels in our midst is sponsored by the Studer Family Children's Hospital at Sacred Heart.

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