Wounded veterans hit jackpot with free trip to Las Vegas
Stars and Stripes May 24, 2008
WASHINGTON — Army veteran Rob Kislow wanted to drive out to Maryland for an afternoon this weekend just see something different.
Instead, on Thursday he got a surprise free trip to Las Vegas.
"I’ve never been there before," he said. "This is a lot better than what I had planned."
Kislow, who lost his lower right leg in a firefight in Iraq two years ago, was one of 40 wounded veterans and servicemembers treated to a private plane flight, a free hotel suite and an all-expenses-paid extravaganza courtesy of Sheldon Adelson, chief executive officer of the Las Vegas Sands Corp.
The weekend schedule included free tickets to several shows on the famous Vegas Strip, a free dinner from celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck, private pools and spas at the Venetian hotel, and a host of other gifts from the billionaire.
Representatives for Adelson, a veteran himself, said the goal was to thank just a few servicemembers for their bravery and sacrifice. Members of the Armed Forces Foundation tagged along for the trip, helping the troops and their guests navigate the journey from Washington to Sin City. They also organized a send-off party on Capitol Hill on Thursday afternoon, where several politicians voiced their thanks and jealousy.
"I’ve never been able to afford to stay in the Venetian," joked Rep. C.W. "Bill" Young, R-Fla. "So make sure you all have fun out there."
Patricia Driscoll, president of the Armed Forces Foundation, said her group has assisted with hundreds of charitable events for servicemembers but never seen as expensive an endeavor as Adelson’s gift. And the CEO has hinted he may hold more outings in the future, she said.
Only a handful of the troops on this trip had visited Las Vegas before. Marine Staff Sgt. Todd Goldstein, wounded last fall in Iraq, said he was excited but a little apprehensive about his fellow travelers.
"I don’t know how the Army does it, but when you give free reign to a Marine it’s never a good idea," he said, laughing. "This might be too much."