By Andrew Sharbel, Belvoir EagleAugust 23, 2010
FORT BELVOIR, Va. - Fort Belvoir Installation Commander Col. John Strycula and Command Sgt. Maj. Gabriel Berhane held the honor Saturday morning of officially opening a new playground for use by special-needs children and Wounded Warriors.
Belvoir was one of 24 Army installations to receive Office of the Secretary of Defense-funding to buy and install an accessible playground.
A small group of special needs and other families attended the opening as Strycula and Berhane outlined the significance a facility like this serves.
Strycula pointed out the importance a facility like this one does for morale on the installation
"This facility is really going to be a great asset to our families and our Soldiers," Strycula said. "For our Wounded Warriors, it gives them the opportunity to enjoy the simple pleasure of playing with their families and that can be great for the healing process.
"It is also a great asset for our Exceptional Family Member Program families, as well, to be able to play with and use," Strycula said. "It is another example of the Army trying to live up to the Army Family Covenant and the promises we have made to the families in the EFMP."
Berhane noted that Belvoir's Wounded Warriors and special-needs families are more than deserving of the playground.
"Our special needs families and Wounded Warriors deserve this and we are all about trying to ensure we are taking care of them and everybody else," Berhane said. "Our DFMWR has done outstanding work getting this playground set up."
After their brief speeches, Strycula and Berhane, accompanied by 10-year old Alex Funderburke, cut the ribbon, officially opening the playground and allowing the children to begin enjoying the new facility.
Tiffany Gary Pickering, an MWR employee and an Army spouse, brought her son, Peter Gary, to the ribbon-cutting.
She felt the facility will provide a sanctuary for children both on and off post to come, play and have fun.
"We are a new EFMP family and I think it will give the installation's children a place to relax in a safe environment," she said. "Before, we were always going to the playgrounds in the villages and this one is even bigger than those.
"I think my son, Peter Gary, said it best when he told me 'a kid could enjoy this in his backyard forever," Gary Pickering said. "This is really great."