By Justin Creech, Belvoir EagleFebruary 8, 2013
The USO cut the ribbon on their new Wounded Warrior and Family Center at Fort Belvoir during the grand opening ceremony Tuesday.
The center, which is the largest in USO history, measures 20,000 square feet and has more than 20 unique spaces, is adjacent to Fort Belvoir's Warrior Transition Unit and will support wounded, ill and injured troops.
"It's been amazing watching it all come together," said Elaine Rogers, USO of Metropolitan Washington president and chief executive officer. "But, to actually be here watching it open and to know troops and their Families can come in and use it -- it's just an amazing moment."
While the primary function of the center is to provide a respite for Soldiers at Belvoir's Warrior Transition Battalion, all servicemembers at Fort Belvoir are welcome to use the facility.
"It's something for the Army to be proud of, that we have the premiere USO facility in the entire world," said Fort Belvoir Garrison Commander Col. Gregory D. Gadson. "The USO wants to get the word out that this belongs to the entire Belvoir community. That is really special that they don't see this for just one group of people."
The center offers a business center, dining room, healing gardens as well as a game room and music room that will provide a place for healing and relaxation.
Activities and programs at the center include physical health and recreation, Family strengthening, positive behavioral health, education, employment and community reintegration.
Command Sgt. Maj. David Perkins, Warrior Transition Unit, feels the quiet and counseling provided at the center will be the most effective healing tools.
"The quiet spaces for counseling and the opportunity to talk to a chaplain or Military Family Life consultant will be great," said Perkins. "The socialization will be very important for the Soldiers suffering from a traumatic brain injury, too. They tend to lose their social skills, so getting them into events that makes them socialize will be very beneficial to them."
Sloan Gibson, USO president and chief executive officer, gave the opening remarks for the ceremony. Gibson felt he didn't need to say much about the facility because the building speaks for itself and reflects the essence of USO's mission.
"It says thanks," said Gibson when asked what the building says. "The very essence of what we do is conveying to servicemen and women in uniform that America appreciates what they do for us. We look for the most powerful ways to say thank you and that's what we are trying to do right here."
The center had its first chance to say thank you to the Soldiers Sunday night during the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff's Super Bowl Party. Gibson said the Soldiers were blown away when they walked into the facility and "couldn't believe this is here for them."
Perkins said the Super Bowl party showed the true power of the facility.
"To have it this close, and be able to get some of the guys out of the barracks who didn't want to get out, and bring them to a world-class facility was special," said Perkins. "It was a great event."
Gadson emphasized that the opening of the facility symbolizes a partnership between Belvoir and the USO in wanting to provide great services for all servicemembers.
"A partnership means we all have something at stake and we do," said Gadson. "As much as this is a USO Center, what we ideally want, as this whole concept grows, is to complement one another with the services we provide."