Neil Ash and his wife June Barrymore Ash.
Neil Ash and his wife June Barrymore Ash share a special connection with military service members and their families. It was their generous gifts that led to the USO Neil Ash Airport Center at San Diego International Airport – the largest USO airport center in the world. Millions of passengers navigate San Diego’s Airport every year and hear over the public-address system: “The USO Neil Ash Airport Center is located in Terminal 2.” Few understand the immense impact the Center makes annually.
Because of the generosity of the Ashes, more than 160,000 service members and their families visit the center each year. Service members and their families can rest, watch television, play games, read or sleep. They can also print their Orders, use the computers, make telephone calls, take a shower, eat a meal, arrange for transportation and complete necessary administrative tasks, easily and with assistance from the USO if they need it. This is also the location where dignified transport is provided to families who have lost a loved one in combat.
Neil Ash’s personal story with the military began in 1945 when he completed naval training at Cornell University. When he departed for the Pacific, World War II was coming to a close, but Neil was assigned the second in command post on a 103-foot coastal transport vessel. It is during this voyage that Neil developed the foundation of his strong beliefs about the meaning of leadership. From there, Neil graduated from the University of Southern California’s law school. Not long after, he was called for active duty. This time, the Korean War. Now a military lawyer, Neil handled cases from desertion to sexual assault. When the Korean War ended in 1953, Neil returned to civilian life. The inspiration for his lifelong support of the military was cemented.
His career led him to the role of corporate counsel for Signal Gas & Oil, and multiple philanthropic commitments. Neil was invited to participate with the USO and served on the World Board of Governors in Washington, DC after having served as president of the USO and receiving the prestigious Spirit of Hope Award. Neil has traveled to several USO Centers around the world, and therefore understood firsthand the impact the USO has on military service members and their families. Through the years, Neil has shared his time, advice and financial support, always with passion and kindness.
After losing their spouses, Neil and June met and later married in 1994. June was already herself a dedicated philanthropist, and Neil inspired her with his dedication and commitment to serving the country’s military service men and women. When Neil and June learned about significant expansion needs for the USO at the Airport, they were there for USO San Diego. At 93 years old, Neil still visits the USO Airport Center when he can.
Bobby Woods, Sergeant Major, Marine Corps (ret.), Director of USO Neil Ash Airport Center, shared with Giving Back Magazine, “When Neil speaks to groups of service members, he kneels and thanks them. It is this single, sincere, act—something I have never seen before—that humbles me and every service member present, every time; Neil and June will always have a very special place in our hearts.”
“My son calls me every time he arrives at the USO in San Diego. There are no words that can explain my relief when I hear his voice. I know he is safe and the USO will be kind to him and give him food. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.” ~ A letter from a mom of a Seaman stationed in San Diego