West Point unit helps soldiers heal with care and comfort
December 12, 2008
WEST POINT - The guys in the camouflage hung back at first, lingering in the lobby of West Point's Soldier and Family Assistance Center.
But the aroma of sausage and maple syrup got the best of them. Soon dozens of recovering soldiers sidled up to Friday's special breakfast buffet.
There are more than 100 servicemen and women assigned to this Warrior Transition Unit at West Point. They were plucked from hospital beds and military bases across the country and relocated here to heal closer to their hometowns.
Spc. Adam Vigliotta, 24, of Boston, spent six months in Iraq before his unit sent him to the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., then on to West Point. He's spent six years in the service and the past two months here, receiving treatment for bipolar disorder.
Warrior Transition Units like this one are the Army's new template for soldier rehabilitation. West Point's unit, founded last year, offers treatment for physical and mental injuries, as well as career, financial and family counseling. It's a one-stop shop to keep wounded soldiers from falling through the cracks.
"Sometimes we'd rather just stay in our rooms," Vigliotta said after polishing off a plate of breakfast. "This isn't one of them."
The soldiers said the unexpected TLC that shows up here around the holidays is much appreciated. Friday's meal was served up by the Bear Mountain Recruiting Company's Family Readiness Group. Its gaggle of Army spouses said they wanted to do something positive for an easily overlooked group of soldiers.
"A lot of them can't even go home for Christmas," said volunteer Emily Tower of Middletown. After her husband's tour in Iraq, she learned "the busier you are, the easier it is." The group brought movies and games with them, too, anything to help the days slide by.
Spc. Timothy Strobel, 26, has counted a year and a half worth of days with this unit. He returned from Iraq in March 2007 with a bullet hole in his left leg and a firestorm erupting at Walter Reed, where he was supposed to recover. A Washington Post news story had just exposed scandalous living conditions at the military hospital. Strobel was sent to West Point instead.
"I was the first," he said. "I didn't even know this place existed." He watched West Point adjust to its growing unit of wounded. It remodeled barracks, hired more counselors and built a kitchen where volunteers could cook up a big spread for the holidays.
This meal doubled as a send-off for Strobel. Friday was his last. After breakfast, he packed and turned in his key. "It was a little strange locking my door for the last time," he said, but unlocking a new door, to his apartment in Long Island, "feels a whole lot better."
Contact the Soldier and Family Assistance Center at 938-0628 or firstname.lastname@example.org.