<b>BREVARD, N.C. </b>- Tucked away at the entrance of the Pisgah National Forest in western North Carolina, the small community of about 6,000 residents welcomed the nation's second Army Strong Community Center during a grand opening ceremony May 15.

Several hundred Soldiers, veterans, family members, business owners and community leaders helped launch the second community-based center filled with resources not only to take care of Army Reserve families but all military families seeking assistance.

"Thank you for hosting us in God's country," Lt. Gen. Jack C. Stultz, Chief, Army Reserve said during the early-morning ceremony. "I'm glad to be here to celebrate what America is really about. For me, at least, it brings you back home to places like Brevard, N.C., and to see really what the strength of America is. It's not in Washington D.C. It's not in the halls of Congress. It's in Brevard, N.C., and other small communities across America."

The center, only the second of its kind, with the other located in Rochester, N.Y., will be resourced and staffed to give military families and veterans the information, services and support they would otherwise have to drive to a major military base to find.

Located more than 160 miles from Fort Jackson, S.C., and more than 250 miles from Fort Bragg, N.C., Brevard was selected because of its remote location from a major military installation, said Stultz.

"If you build it they will come," said Stultz, quoting a famous line from the movie, "Field of Dreams."

When the Brevard community was selected as the second location, Stultz said everyone asked him and his Family Programs staff, "Why Brevard'"

"Why not," he responded. "Why wouldn't we choose Brevard' We said Soldiers and family members need help there."

During the past several months, more than a hundred families have walked through the Brevard Army Strong Community Center to ask questions, get information, or find comfort in knowing someone is there to help.

Stultz said what was unique about the Brevard location during its short history is that one-third of the families walking through the door were active-duty families seeking assistance.

Stultz gave full credit for the community center concept to his wife, Laura.

"We have to bring the installations to the Soldiers and their communities, because they don't have a Fort Campbell; they don't have a Fort Drum; they don't have Fort Hood in Brevard, N.C., so we have to bring it to them," he said.


That's what this Army Strong Community Center does, Stultz said.

"It establishes, for us, a center that says, 'If you are military in western North Carolina, we are here for you,'" he said. "We are here to take care of you. We are here to offer services. We are here to find solutions."

Stultz said today was about bringing a community and the military together to draw upon one another's strengths.

To be successful as a military and against the fight against terror, Stultz said he needed four things: a Soldier, that Soldier's family, the Soldier's employer and a supportive community.

"A community, like Brevard, has to be there for that Soldier and that Soldier's family - especially when I take that Soldier away," he said.

For the Army Reserve family, the center is a place where the community can plug in, according to Stultz.

By Shultz's side was his wife Laura. She recalled past difficulties as a wife left behind as her husband deployed to Iraq and alone with four children.

Laura said she remembered not being able to attend numerous family readiness group meetings because of the distance to travel and the life as a temporary single mom.

"I knew there was something missing," she said. "I didn't feel connected."

All that changed when her husband was sworn in as Chief, Army Reserve in May 2006.

"I said this is it. This is my chance," she said about helping families left behind while their spouses deploy overseas. "I wanted to bring a military installation to the communities."

Laura said she was happy to assist opening in the Army Reserve's second center and hopes there will be many more in the future.

From small things like washing a pregnant woman's car while her husband is overseas to being there for the big things, Laura envisioned local communities coming together with area military residents and helping those in need.

"I have every confidence that the people of North Carolina will step up and support their local military families," she said.

Air Force veteran and Brevard mayor Jimmy Harris pledged his community's support for the new center during the ceremony.

"Families are important, and they make a difference in the lives of Soldiers," he said. "When I am amongst you, and I see these flags and these volunteers in uniform, I am a proud American. I am proud of being a part of something that is this good."

Harris said the residents of Brevard will stand tall and are committed to the Army Strong Community Center.

"We will stand and support you in this mission," he told Stultz. "We are proud that we were selected -- this is a blessing."

Page last updated Sun May 16th, 2010 at 16:41