By Debbie Gregory.
Service members who are critically injured in war, training accidents and calamities like car accidents often spend many months in treatment and recovery at military hospitals. One of the largest and most used facilities is the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC), which is comprised of the Walter Reed Army Medical Center and the Bethesda Naval Hospital. Walter Reed has gone to great lengths to remove negative opinions about long-term military medical care. But any person who spends months in any hospital will grow stir-crazy and grow weary of the cold and unwelcoming feel of their sterilized accommodations.
The United Service Organizations (USO) recently opened a new facility at the Naval Support Activity Bethesda, which houses the WRNMMC. The USO’s new Warrior and Families Center is the second such center that the USO has opened. The first Warrior and Families Center was opened at Fort Belvoir, Virginia last year.
The USO is mainly known by service members for its airport lounges and entertainment tours. However the organization has been a constant presence at the Walter Reed center throughout the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The USO believes that the need to provide ongoing care for injured, ill and wounded service members will continue, even after the war in Afghanistan ends.
The USO provides these state-of-the-art centers for wounded service members who are being treated at the Walter Reed complex, and their families. They are meant to serve as a place where the recovering wounded can relax with their families and escape from the hospital’s sterile environment, while still remaining close to the medical care that they require.
The Warrior and Families Center was built alongside the long-term patient barracks. This area of the facility is where recovering service members often live for up to 24 months at a time while undergoing numerous treatments and surgeries. The 16,000 square-foot USO facility is equipped with dozens of private spaces which provide support and comfort for service members and their families who are treated at Walter Reed.
Along with beneficial programs like physical rehab, family counseling and employment consultation, the Warrior and Families Center offers spaces for families to relax and visit with their wounded warrior. These visiting spaces include a fireside lounge, music & arts centers, kitchen & dining areas, and an NFL lounge that is also stocked with video games.
The Warrior and Family Center was dedicated in honor of former USO National Campaign Chairman Prescott S. Bush, who raised $210 million for the organization in the early 1940s. Along with being a WWI Veteran and USO fundraiser, Bush is the father of former President George H.W. Bush and grandfather of former President George W. Bush.