SAN ANTONIO, Texas (Army News Service, Jan. 30, 2007) - An aircraft carrier that sparked the spirits of a nation following the devastating attack on Pearl Harbor during the dark, early days of World War II has become the namesake of the world's most technologically advanced rehabilitation center for amputees and burn victims unveiled during an emotional-packed ceremony here yesterday.
The Center for the Intrepid, a four-story, 65,000 square-foot facility adjacent to Brooke Army Medical Center and two new Fisher Houses were officially opened during a two-hour dedication ceremony.
Senators Hillary Clinton and John McCain, along with Chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff Gen. Peter M. Pace, Assistant Secretary of Defense Gordon England, Secretary of the Army Francis J. Harvey and Secretary of the Department of Veteran Affairs R. James Nicholson, made remarks during the dedication.
More than 3,200 guests included senior military leaders, major contributors, many of the injured servicemembers from Brooke Army Medical Center and several celebrities that included Rosie O'Donnell, Michelle Pfeiffer, with a performance by John Mellencamp.
"We are here to dedicate, not a memorial, but a monument to the determination and courage of the steadfast men and women who serve selflessly," said Bill White, president of the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, and master of ceremonies for the dedication.
"It is a day of destiny, because it demonstrates forever the commitment of the American community to honor those who serve the twin pillars of freedom and democracy without regard to politics, personality or personal gain. This $50 million 'state-of-the-world' physical rehabilitation center - all privately funded - is the largest single private contribution to our nation's wounded warriors in the history of our country."
The center will provide traumatic amputee patients, burn patients requiring advanced rehabilitation and those requiring limb salvage efforts with techniques and training to help them regain their ability to live and work productively.
The center's main departments include the military performance lab, occupational therapy, physical therapy, prosthetics, case management and behavioral medicine. Much of the technology found in the new center can't be found anywhere else in the world.
A Gait Lab is fitted with 24 cameras on an automated truss which use infrared light to analyze human motion. A computer assisted environment, called CAREN, is a 21-foot simulated dome with a 300-degree screen that immerses patients using sensors and high-speed infrared cameras and a moving platform that reacts to the patients' movements.
According to Maj. Stuart Campbell, officer-in-charge of the physical therapy department, the center has a huge advantage where prosthetic fitting is concerned. The third floor of the center provides patients with prosthetic fitting, physical therapy and a gym.
"If this was a civilian facility, a patient would be fitted with a prosthetic device, go to physical therapy at another location, work out in a gym and return to the get the prosthesis adjusted. Here it's all done on one floor."
In the area of occupational therapy, the center focuses on restoring health and function following serious injury or illness. At the Center for the Intrepid, a fully furnished apartment has been created to give patients a real-world environment to practice everyday skills.
According to Capt. Florie Gonzales, an occupational therapist with the center, the apartment is equipped with a computer workstation with state-of-the-art voice recognition, a fully equipped kitchen and bath and a comfortable living room that completely takes them out of the hospital environment.
In addition to a daily living apartment, patients have a virtual driving simulator that helps them learn to adjust to driving without limbs in a virtual setting that parallels real driving experiences. Patients can also quantify their ability to qualify with weapons, using a Firearms Training Simulator that puts them on a 'virtual range' using 9 mm and M-4 replicas.
Other 'state-of-the-world' strengthening and physical therapy tools include a treadwall and a 21-foot climbing tower, a track, and a natorium with a six-lane pool. A Flowrider is similar to a wave machine that helps promote balance, strength, motivation and confidence.
"What you see before you is a monument built by the contributions of 600,000 Americans - kids who gave pennies ... and mothers and fathers who just wanted to say thank you," said Arnold Fisher, chairman of the board for the Intrepid Museum Foundation.
"When you go inside you will see the most modern, advanced and unique training and rehabilitation center devoted to the advancement of the science and art of prosthetic rehabilitation and care for burn victims. The Center for the Intrepid has no equal anywhere ... because the men and women who fight for our freedom have no equal as well."
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Peter M. Pace told the crowd of injured servicemembers that their efforts were by no means in vain.
"There are those who speak about you who say, 'He lost an arm, he lost a leg, she lost her sight... I object. You gave your arm. You gave your leg. You gave your sight. As gifts to your nation. That we might live in freedom. Thank you. And to your families, families of the fallen and families of the wounded, you sacrificed in ways that those of us who have not walked in your shoes can only imagine."
Senator Hillary Clinton summed up the tie of Intrepid as a name for the center that applies to our wounded warriors today much as the USS Intrepid healed Americans more than 65 years ago.
"Intrepid is an example of how our country came together after a devastating attack on Pear Harbor. The keel of the Intrepid was laid one week after Pear Harbor. An attack that devastated our navy and shocked our country. And, the Intrepid was our first answer. To show the enemy that they have damaged our ships, but not our spirits. We are here again to celebrate once again that spirit. To thank our wounded warriors and their families for their devotion to duty, honor, country that their lives exemplify. We know that for many of our wounded warriors there will be a challenging road ahead. This center stands as that pledge: A solemn pledge of the healing and support our nation owes every one of you."