The United Services Organization (USO) broke ground Nov. 7 on a brand new facility at Naval Support Activity Bethesda (NSAB), dedicated to supporting wounded troops and their families throughout the rehabilitation process.
Once complete, the new structure will be the largest USO facility in the world. In addition to assets such as computers, TVs and a place to relax, found in most USO facilities, this center will have several components dedicated specifically to wounded warrior care.
“This is going to be a place of healing and fellowship where families can come to nourish both their bodies and their souls,” said NSAB Commanding Officer Capt. Frederick Kass.
The facility will consist of three zones.
The first, will focus on “recreation and normalcy,” and provide many of the features military members have come to expect from an USO, such as a gaming area, food and a sports lounge.
The second zone, call “respite,” will provide a more quiet area for people wanting a more serene environment.
Finally, the last area will be focused on education and work. This area is dedicated to providing service members and their families with the support they need to transition back into the civilian workforce and assist them in their educational efforts.
“This will be a place where futures are planned and launched,” said Sloan Gibson, the president of the USO.
Gibson said the facility will be designed to “the audible gasp standard,” and noted that there was and will continue to be input from wounded warriors and their families throughout the design and construction process.
Also speaking at the ceremony was Vice Adm. Matthew Nathan, the Navy Surgeon General, who mentioned the historic roots of the USO and the location of the new center and how they connect to the present.
“This is making good on a commitment in the 1940’s by FDR (President Franklin Delano Roosevelt) who was out here visiting and said, ‘the second World War is coming to a close and thousands of veterans will be healing and convalescing. I want them to heal and convalesce in an area where they can feel they’ve been reintegrated and part of the community again,’” said Nathan. “Here we are making good on that promise, creating an environment where our wounded warriors and their families can find some normalcy again.”
In addition to the three zones, the 16,000 square foot facility will have a welcome area staffed full time by volunteers who can assist visitors with activities and provide information on programs going on both in the USO center and around the installation.
The facility is scheduled to be complete in the spring of 2014.