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The USO cut the ribbon today on its largest center in history when it officially opens the Warrior and Family Center at Fort Belvoir.
The United Service Organization's 20,000 square-foot center, which is adjacent to Belvoir's Warrior Transition Center, is designed to ease wounded service members' transition after physical injury and to help treat a range of other, more invisible health problems, including post-traumatic stress disorder and the traumatic brain injury.
The center includes music rooms, art rooms, gaming facilities, healing gardens, an indoor virtual driving range and a kitchen where veterans can meet and eat with their families and friends. Standing in the music room, USO Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Hall notes all the instruments, including an electronic drum set, as well as another vital feature: the room's soundproof walls.
"So they can butcher a song as bad as they want and no one will hear," she said. The proximity to Fort Belvior's transition center is key to the USO's center, she says.
"This center will really give us the ability to take those next steps in life using things like art, music, video gaming and the kitchen downstairs to begin coming together with people that they really care about," she says.
Downstairs, in the virtual driving range, Staff Sergeant Charles Egglesston takes a swing.
"It's going to be a great venue to get away from all the appointments, the stress, the strain of everyday life as a recovering wounded warrior," says Egglesston, who will both work with others at the center and benefit from it himself.
The message the new USO center sends is an important one, Eggleston adds.
"It seems like … the USO is basically saying 'We've got your back on this. We're going to make this a home away from from home, we're going to help you re-adjust and help you relax,'" he says.