By Jim Hughes, Fort Rucker Public AffairsSeptember 20, 2018
FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- Fort Rucker continued its ascent as a top-flight destination for wounded warriors who want to experience the great outdoors when it opened its Wounded Warrior Retreat by the Lake Sept. 19.
The new American Disabilities Act-accessible cabin on Lake Tholocco's East Beach is a one-of-a-kind facility and further supports what Fort Rucker officials often claim -- Fort Rucker is the top Army installation, said William G. "Bill" Kidd, deputy to the commanding general of the U.S. Army Aviation Center and Fort Rucker, at the ribbon cutting ceremony.
"This is yet again another accolade that the community came together to achieve that makes it the best in the Army," Kidd said. "We are the only installation that has such a facility. And we are deeply appreciate of all of you who volunteered your time and your talents and your efforts to make this a reality today."
A partnership of private and corporate sponsors, spearheaded by the Wiregrass Wounded Veterans Committee, made the cabin -- featuring an enlarged carport, wheelchair ramp, lowered light switches and appliances, wheelchair-accessible shower and other features all designed to make common tasks more convenient for the nation's visiting wounded warriors -- happen, he added.
"The government did not build this with its own resources, it was generated by generous folks like you. We're deeply appreciative of that," Kidd said. "There are lots of people that were involved in it and I hope that you're justly proud of what you're seeing here today."
And people were seeing more than just a cabin, they were seeing a legacy of caring and generosity that the Wiregrass is known for, he added.
"With every wounded warrior there is a family and a community that is changed by their relationship with them," Kidd added. "And I would say that Fort Rucker and the Wiregrass is fundamentally changed by its relationship with its wounded warriors and its veterans. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for what this means to our wounded warriors and veterans, but also to Soldiers who see that commitment -- that untiring commitment -- that you've given."
And that commitment was readily apparent to the first wounded warriors to stay in the cabin, wounded warriors Aaron and Shanan LeFeat, who live near Fort Benning, Georgia, and their friend Michael Bennett from Nashville.
"It's a wonderful house -- everything is accessible," Bennett, who spent 21 years in the military, said. "I've been to a handful of Army installations and I've never seen anything like this. It's truly amazing we have a place to stay where we don't have to bring our own ramps, our own suction-type railings for showers -- the adaptive equipment is already here. You don't have to do anything but just show up and stay -- I love it!"
Not one to rest on Fort Rucker's laurels, garrison commander Col. Brian E. Walsh asked Bennett to help the post support wounded warriors even more. "After you've spent the night, give us some feedback -- help us make it better."
But Bennett had only good things to say about the efforts of the Wiregrass and Fort Rucker to support wounded warriors.
"What you guys are doing here is amazing for wounded vets, and I hope that the other installations can get on board and start doing stuff like this because it really helps us," he said. "When you come back and you're injured, you just want to enjoy life with your buddies and stuff, and when people say let's go camping or something like that, you're like, 'I'm not camping in a tent.'
"Fort Rucker has this house, a trailer, a boat and hunting equipment all designed to support wounded warriors," he said. "I'll be putting the word out like crazy. 'Hey! This is available for you. This is for you -- the wounded warriors.' I'm so thankful for being here. And to the people who put this together, I am honored to shake your hands."
Bennett's glowing reviews were music to the ears of Conrad Stempel, co-chairman of the WWVC, who also spoke at the event and thanked the many different local veterans groups, businesses and other people who gave their time, effort and money to support the venture.
Stempel also thanked the Directorate of Family, and Morale, Welfare and Recreation and Directorate of Public Works staffs for their efforts, as well, before announcing that an ADA-accessible floating boat dock with fishing pier project was just approved that will further the experience of wounded warriors staying at the cabin.
For more information on the cabin or to make a reservation, call Lake Tholocco Lodging at 255-4234.