Gold-painted shovels gleamed as officials broke ground Monday on the USO’s new Wounded Warrior and Family Center on Fort Belvoir.
The event also launched the public phase of Operation Enduring Care.
“It’s a symbol of America’s commitment to our Wounded Warriors and their Families, all of them around the world, supporting them as they take the next step in their lives,” Sloan Gibson, USO president, said of the center. The center will be on the campus of the new Fort Belvoir Community Hospital.
Col. John J. Strycula, Fort Belvoir Garrison commander, host of the groundbreaking, said the center is the third leg of a warrior care triad on Belvoir that also includes the new hospital and wounded warrior complex.
“So, now at Fort Belvoir, we have top-notch health care, tremendous living and support facilities and, with the addition of this Family center, the third leg of our warrior care triad,” he said.
The 25,000 square-foot facility will help Wounded Warriors and their Families embrace the future, Strycula continued. It will include a family kitchen, children’s play space, recreational areas, classrooms, learning center and a business center.
“It will also become a place for our warriors and their Families to find solace and peace and help in their recovery process,” he said. “I think the measure of success for this facility will be when the warriors bring their Families to this place to unwind, to put their feet up and just smile. When you come in here and you see the warriors … these heroes smiling and laughing with their Families, that’s when you’ll know this facility is a success.”
Operation Enduring Care is the USO’s $100 million campaign to support the nation’s Wounded Warriors and their Families.
“Our goal is to help those who sacrificed so much more " from the battlefield to a happy and fulfilling future " and this center is a key component in that effort,” Sloan continued. “Supporting the troops has to be more than a slogan. It has to be supported in action. We may be breaking ground for a building, but we’re really celebrating the start of a national movement.”
Gen. Martin Dempsey, Army chief of staff, said taking care of Wounded Warriors and their families is the responsibility of all Americans.
“It is, literally, an enduring responsibility that we have to bear as a nation,” he said.
The campaign seeks to raise $25 million to build Wounded Warrior Family centers at Belvoir and Walter Reed Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. The campaign will also raise $25 million to endow the centers and $50 million to support ongoing programs.
“This center will send a loud message saying, ‘Welcome, we love you, and thank you for serving your country,’” said Sue Timken, co-chair of OEC Campaign and wife of the former ambassador to Germany, where she visited Wounded Warriors and their Families at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center countless times.
Wounded Warrior Marine Master Sgt. William “Spanky” Gibson noted the center will help injured servicemembers care for their Families as they recover.
“It’s giving us the responsibility to provide a certain level of support to our Families,” he said.
Northrup Grumman has pledged $5 million to the campaign, the largest, single contribution in the USO’s 70-year history.
“We did it because we have a responsibility to make sure that when our warriors come back, we are there,” said Sandra Evers-Manly, president of the Northrup Grumman Foundation.
Retired Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the USO board of governors, said the center is all about ensuring the morale of the armed forces.
“We owe it to those who serve on behalf of everybody else who give up their security for our security to do things like this for them,” he said.
Congressman Gerry Connolly, D-Va. 11, noted that all Americans have a sacred obligation to take care of servicemembers and their families. He said the center would be a home away from home for Wounded Warriors and their Families.
“What we’re doing today is not just a groundbreaking, but it is renewing and rededicating ourselves to that commitment to the men and women who put on that uniform and serve their country so we can stay free and our democracy remain vital,” he said.

Page last updated Mon June 27th, 2011 at 00:00