USO Center to Care for Wounded Warriors, Families

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"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.

Army Col. John J. Strycula, Fort Belvoir garrison commander, said the center is the third component of a warrior care system here 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 noted. The center 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," he added, "that's when you'll know this facility is a success."

The event also officially launched Operation Enduring Care, the USO's $100 million campaign to support the nation's wounded warriors and their families. The campaign seeks to raise $25 million to build wounded warrior family centers here and at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. The campaign also will raise $25 million to endow the centers and $50 million to support ongoing programs.

"Our goal is to help those who sacrificed so much more, from the battlefield to a happy and fulfilling future," Sloan said. "And this center is a key component in that effort.

"Supporting the troops has to be more than a slogan," he added. "It has to be supported in action."

Gen. Martin E. 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.

Marine Corps Master Sgt. William Gibson, a wounded warrior, said the center will help injured service members 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.

Retired Air Force Gen. Richard B. 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," said Myers, who before his retirement in 2005 served as the 15th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Rep. Gerald E. Connolly of Virginia's 11th District said all Americans have a sacred obligation to take care of service members and their families. The center, he noted, will 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.

"This center will send a loud message saying, 'Welcome, we love you, and thank you for serving your country,'" added Sue Timken, co-chair of the Operation Enduring Care campaign.

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