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Construction on Track at USO Warrior and Family Center at Bethesda

Thursday, July 18, 2013

By Eric Brandner  

Jonathan Matthews has done a lot, but he’s barely halfway home.

While the recently opened USO Warrior and Family Center at Fort Belvoir, Va., is already welcoming a steady stream of recovering troops and families, Matthews – the USO’s director of logistics and facilities – is working to shepherd Belvoir’s sister center through the construction process.

The concrete foundation has been poured for the USO Warrior and Family Center at Bethesda, a short walk from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on the grounds of Naval Support Activity Bethesda, Md. Clark Construction has commenced the initial brickwork at the center, and the erecting of the steel that comprises the building’s skeleton is set to start this week.

Both USO Warrior and Family Centers are made possible by donations to USO Operation Enduring Care, which is focused on raising funds that will pay for the completion of the Bethesda center’s construction and also endow USO Warrior and Family Careprograms, which enrich the lives of America’s wounded, ill and injured troops and their families and help them along their path to brighter futures after the military.

Matthews said the Bethesda center’s constrained footprint – when compared to the USO’s Belvoir grounds – creates unique construction challenges.

“[It’s an] extremely small construction footprint compared to Belvoir, so maneuvering within the site, storage of materials within the site, sequence of work … are major challenges,” he said.

Significant summer storms and pre-existing issues with electrical ducts created delays early in the project, but Matthews says the STUDIOS Architecture-designed center is still on schedule for a Spring 2013 opening.

The USO Warrior and Family Center at Bethesda will be 16,217 square feet and provide the comforts of home to wounded, ill and injured troops and their families steps from the most advanced medical campus in the military. The Walter Reed National Military Medical Center opened in the fall of 2011 and features cutting-edge prosthetics and brain injury labs to serve troops with a wide range of injuries.

The building will feature plenty of recreational space, quiet areas for relaxation, a state-of-the-art learning center where guests can take online courses and plan their post-military careers, and a sprawling healing garden just outside the floor-to-ceiling windows where visitors can reflect and even work through simple physical rehabilitation tasks.

The new center could quickly become a community hub, if the recently opened Belvoir building is any indication. The USO Warrior and Family Center at Fort Belvoir has hosted nearly 38,000 guests in its first four-plus months of operation.

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