Hundreds witnessed the ribbon-cutting Tuesday afternoon at the USO Warrior and Family Center on Fort Belvoir. The $25 million 20,000 square-foot facility is the largest USO facility ever built, and is designed as a place to lift the spirits of injured and ill troops, as well as local active duty personnel in all of the U.S. Armed Forces.
"The USO has not only identified a need, but they have taken action," said Fort Belvoir Garrison Commander Col. Gregory Gadson, who lost both of his legs in Iraq in 2007. "This opening represents a partnership between all of our services in the USO…to help in the healing process."
The center is part of Operation Enduring Care, the USO’s $100 million campaign to support warriors and their families. It is located near the Fort Belvoir Warrior in Transition Unit, a facility for wounded veterans who are rehabilitating from injuries sustained in combat, and the $1 billion Fort Belvoir Community Hospital.
"We wanted this center to be designed to the 'audible gasp standard,' because that's the reaction we wanted to elicit from troops the first time they stepped into the center," said Sloan Gibson, USO president and CEO. "I hope that you'll agree as you have the opportunity to step inside and see that we've met that standard."
The facility features:
- A movie theater
- A business center
- A dining room
- Healing gardens
- An outdoor grill
- A family room
- Video game room and music rooms
- A sports lounge
- A fireside lounge
- Classrooms with more than a dozen new computers
- A spacious kitchen with free beverages, snacks and catered dishes
The center will be maintained by the USO of Metropolitain Washington. "This is life-changing for the USO as an organization," said it's president and CEO Elaine Rogers. "We are so humbled and so honored to be entrusted with the keys to this building."
Kuwait's Ambassador to the U.S, Sheikh Salem Abdullah Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, donated $2 million to the center. "Without the US Armed Forces, I would not be standing here today as the representative of a free and sovereign nation. We thought this was an opportunity for us to give back, in a way," he said.
Wes Bush, Northrop Grumman's president and CEO, said that the center will serve as a beacon for those who have served. "To all the selfless men and women that this center has been set up to serve, we really don't have enough words in our vocabulary to say thank you, and hopefully everyone can see this center as one of the best expressions of our thanks we can give," he said.
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