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'A home away from home’ | USO lounge gives Honor Guard a place to spend the holidays and decompress after military funerals

Those who serve at military funerals take on an emotional burden. USO Metro created a lounge for them to have a place of their own. WUSA9 takes you inside.

ARLINGTON, Va. — In 2013, Staff Sgt. Michael Harrison Simpson was looking for a safe route back from a mission when he hit an IED in Afghanistan. The Green Beret passed away May 1, leaving behind his wife Krista and their two young boys.

“He opened his eyes really big and said 'wife, kids I love,' and then went into cardiac arrest,” Krista Simpson Anderson said.

Simpson was buried at Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors from the Honor Guard.

“I remember what they did for us,” Krista said. “I’ve seen what they’ve done for other families at funerals that I’ve attended, and I recognize what they’re doing day in and day out and how many funerals they do. Gosh, that must be such a difficult job, to stay stoic and to not show their emotion when everyone around you is falling apart, to see day in and day out the darkest days of people’s lives.”

Credit: Family Photo
Staff Sgt. Michael Harrison Simpson

Krista is grateful to them and grateful they have the USO lounge at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall.

“They're experiencing such emotion around them every day,” Krista said. “To be able to come to a place where they can just rest and work through that.”

Credit: WUSA9
USO Lounge at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall

Pam Horton is VP of Strategic Initiatives for USO Metropolitan Washington-Baltimore.

“We always want our service members to feel like they can find a home away from home, whether that’s on the battlefield or actually stateside, they’re not actually at their house” she said.

RELATED: Donate a Holiday Meal to USO’s Turkeys for Troops

A home away from home, especially if they aren't able to travel to their actual homes for the holidays. With your donations, the USO is able to fill the void with Turkeys for Troops and other meals served at the lounge at least three times a month.

Credit: WUSA9
USO Lounge at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall

“We want to give them that space to be able to just relax and take a moment, a breather and not always be on,” Horton said.

Krista believes Mike, who started his military career in the Old Guard, which is the Army's Honor Guard, would have spent a lot of time here.

Credit: Family Photo
SSGT Mike Simpson left behind his wife and two young boys

“I think it's essential for them to be able to continue to do their job as well as they do,” she added.

You can donate to the annual WUSA9 Turkeys For Troops virtual telethon, which helps provide for families like the Simpson's, by clicking here.

RELATED: Military funeral honors, paused by coronavirus pandemic, resuming at most VA cemeteries

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