Earlier this month, the USO opened a second Warrior and Family Center in the D.C. area. The first one is located on Fort Belvoir in Northern Virginia and the second has now opened at Naval Support Activity Bethesda, in Maryland, outside the doors of Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. The goal of these facilities is to provide a home away from home for military families and wounded who are recovering nearby; as well as a place for other military members and their families serving in the area to take a break and relax. The USO has designed and created a relaxing facility that addresses major areas of recovery aside from the obviously physical ones.
The USO Warrior and Family Center at Bethesda is a 16,000 (+) square foot facility that “provides space for USO programs and activities that support the following key components to the USO’s continuum of care: physical health and recreation, family strengthening, positive behavior health, education, employment and community reintegration.” Elaine Rogers, USO DC-Metro President, is extremely excited about what this facility will bring to the Walter Reed Community. “We will be able to provide a whole treatment philosophy right outside the doors of the one of the largest hospitals treating our wounded warriors and their families.” This sentiment was relayed over and over again through the day, from each of the speakers present. “To be able to get away in the midst of it all to such a beautiful, peaceful and comfortable place, right here on campus. This is more than just nice to have, it is an essential part of recovery,” Admiral James Winnefeld, Jr., Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said.
Those that have experienced what the USO has to offer echoed the Vice Chairman’s words. Army Staff Sgt, Nathan Toews, his parents and his new finance were filled with love for what the USO had given them during Toews’ recovery. Toews’ father, in the Air National Guard, and his mother, couldn’t always be with their son during his recovery. The USO stepped in to the fill gaps, and Toews’ spoke specifically of events such as regular poker nights as something that made the difference for him. “You have to just get out there. I couldn’t sit and think about what had already happened. I just had to move forward,” Toews said. There’s a certain amount of your own innate being that goes into your recovery, but Toews made it clear that what he received from the USO played a huge role even still. Toews tells me that if everyone that is recovering can experience what he did it would go a long way towards their recovery.
This is truly the aim of the USO, and what is becoming a universal truth within the community. It isn’t purely a physical recovery that leads to the best chances of a full recovery. It truly is a full scope recovery mission. By providing art therapy, classes in things like fly fishing, space to play and record various music and voice records, as well as a relaxing atmosphere for the injured and their families, this new building will play a large role in recovering from this war. There is no one single to heal, and the USO recognizes this. Even those who are not injured are weary; families have been stretched beyond normal means. They are welcome at these facilities too. All military members and their families can take advantage of what these facilities have to offer. As a military spouse myself, I wish one of these facilities could be attached to every single base or largely populated military area. If you are stationed in the D.C. or Virginia area I strongly urge you to come and check out one of these amazing facilities.