Published Thursday, May 22, 2008 | 7:15 p.m.
Updated Tuesday, Oct. 28, 2008 | 10:15 a.m.
The Venetian's much-coveted high-roller suites will be occupied this holiday weekend appropriately enough by American soldiers discharged from Walter Reed Medical Center and National Naval Medical Center.
They are recipients of a whirlwind, all-expenses-paid vacation thanks to Venetian boss Sheldon Adelson.
The weekend itinerary for the 40 wounded Iraq war soldiers and their families includes gourmet meals, shows and other entertainment.
The high-roller treatment began in Washington, D.C., where a 27-person police motorcade picked up the group from the hospitals, took them down to the U.S. Capitol to meet lawmakers and, snarling rush hour traffic, ushered them to Dulles where they boarded Adelson's luxury 747 for Vegas.
The Adelsons and entertainer Wayne Newton met the soldiers at the airport and they traveled by bus to the Venetian, where "salute the troops" banners were draped about the property and thousands of employees greeted them. To surprise the soldiers, they were told they were going to Vegas but little more than that, organizers said.
"There have been cruises and hunts, where they have stayed in a nice lodge. But nothing on this scale, ever," said Patricia Driscoll, president of the Armed Forces Foundation, a nonprofit support group that arranged the event. Besides the deluxe surroundings, the red carpet treatment was a shock for the men, most of whom have never been to Las Vegas, Driscoll said.
"Being in D.C., we hear both sides of the aisle fighting all the time," she said, her voice catching. "But there wasn't anything political about this. It was all for the love of the troops. We were all in tears."