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Wounded Warrior Home Project (Courtesy of Wounded Warrior Home Project)
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USO Proudly Supports Wounded Warrior Home Project

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

By Christian Pelusi 

The USO was proud to co-sponsor and participate in a symposium on housing design and construction for wounded, ill and injured troops Tuesday at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C.

A panel discussed how architecture can assist in the rehabilitation of veterans and servicemen and women, highlighted by their Wounded Warrior Home Project at Fort Belvoir, Va.

USO President and CEO Sloan Gibson addressed the audience prior to the panel’s presentation and question and answer session, thanking the gentlemen for their efforts and vision while also discussing the USO Warrior and Family Center at Fort Belvoir. It is slated to open Jan. 2013.

“A lot of these men and women were trained to fight an enemy on the battlefield, but they weren’t trained to fight a different enemy when they came home. … The enemy is despair,” Gibson said. “And that’s what these centers are all about.

“These buildings are going to make a difference to the healing process for these men and women, just like these homes that are being designed. To give them the ability to live and exist and operate on their own.”

The panel was comprised of world renowned architect and designer of the two Wounded Warrior Home Project models Michael Graves, Clark Realty Capital project director Casey Nolan and project advisor Capt. Alvin Shell (Ret.). The panel presented why these homes are so vital to the convalescence and independence of wounded, ill and injured troops.

“What we found is, building to the minimum just wasn’t good enough,” Nolan said, when describing other efforts at constructing housing for disabled troops. “So what we decided to do was instead of trying to make a few incremental changes, let’s just reinvent handicapped accessible housing for wounded warriors and their families.”

The concept for the Wounded Warrior Home Project was conceived in May 2010 with the goal of bettering a wounded, ill or injured troop's road to recovery through living environments that are designed with their particular hopes and needs in mind. The design group interviewed rehabilitating troops to capture their priorities and address the challenges they encounter in daily home life. To best honor those wishes and specifications while also meeting building codes and accessibility requirements, the group consulted with builders, engineers, scientists and other architects.

From multiple heating and cooling zones to adjustable height counters to curbless showers, the houses give troops a comfort and ease of usability that that a wounded soldier like Capt. Shell can proudly call home.

Capt. Shell spent two years in a hospital following his heroic rescue of fellow soldiers in 2004 who were trapped in a burning vehicle in Iraq. His act of bravery left him with burns over 30 percent of his body, along with lost vision and traumatic brain injury (TBI) and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from the roadside bomb. As someone who still deals with issues related to his injuries, Capt. Shell whole-heartedly endorses what Graves and Nolan have created.

"The architectural innovations of this house go way beyond assisting someone with physical limitations," Capt. Shell said. "I think it also assists wounded warriors with the emotional and cognitive challenges when they come back. With the open floor plans, the placement of the windows, even the audible alerts when a door or window is open, those things are vital to someone that is facing TBI, traumatic brain injury or PTSD, post traumatic stress disorder."

In Nov. 2011, the first home at Fort Belvoir welcomed a returning active-duty wounded warrior and his family as the second home was used as a model for research and education. Graves said the house changes ownership every two years, at least. Graves and Nolan hope that the concept homes will serve as prototypes for 19 more homes on the base while also spurring public awareness and support for similar projects across the country that will benefit not just persons with disabilities but also the elderly.

Perhaps most importantly, the project presents these troops with an environment that restores not just their independence, but their honor and pride.

Capt. Shell said: “I think people in the military usually don’t want handouts, don’t want things specially catered for them and, for the most part, don’t want to be a burden. And I think when you walk into this house, you don’t feel that. … It really felt like a home.”

Learn more about the project by visiting and watch this virtual tour of one of the homes. 


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Photo caption: The Patriot home model from the Wounded Warrior Home Project. (Courtesy of 

Donate today to support our troops this Veterans Day during the USO’s "Grant a Wish for Our Heroes" campaign. 

Federal employees can help the USO fulfill its mission to support troops and their families though the 2012 Combined Federal Campaign. Please designate #11381. 

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