Healing Heroes: Support center helps wounded warriors, families heal
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For Army spouse Genette Burgess and her family, Thursday night bingo at the Warrior Family Support Center at Fort Sam Houston is a source of comfort.
“We can come here and we can eat dinner,” she said. “Just get away from what happened.”
Genette’s husband, Sgt. Daniel Burgess, stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his right leg below the knee, and also severely injured his left leg.
“We were actually buying food to send to him in a package, and I seriously had the ache in my heart, and I was like, ‘Something is not right,’” Genette said. "The thoughts that go through your head—why did this have to happen to him? He loves the military."
Life also changed that day for his wife and two daughters, who have been living in a hotel since leaving their home in Ohio.
"It's kind of a slow process to get back in the saddle and getting up again," Sgt. Burgess said.
Fort Sam Houston's Warrior Family Support Center is helping them along with the ups and downs.
"Whether you like the war or not, or whoever you vote for, is of absolutely no difference to me. We owe these young men and women and they deserve the very best,” Judith Markelz with the center said.
The facility was built in 2008 through donations, and is staffed mostly by volunteers. It offers wounded warriors and their families plenty of activities and space.
"It's a good support for your family, and when your family is happy, you're going to be happy and it really makes you want to drive on,” Sgt. Burgess said.
But not every wounded soldier has a family to lean on.
“For some soldiers, they don't have family support here. And so for them, that whole aspect of rediscovery, the importance of their faith becomes very paramount,” Chaplain Bryant Casteel said. “A lot of them come and they just really want to talk about actually going through their recovery, how important God has been.”
Although Casteel is a chaplain with the warrior transition battalion , he says sometimes survival brings up tough questions, but with time also comes acceptance.
“They're thankful that they do have their life and their family still. They need to figure out a way to move forward and live life,” Casteel said.
As the warriors embark on a new journey, the volunteers at the center see them through every step of the way.
“Eleven percent of my volunteers are Vietnam Veterans,” Markelz said. “[They're] here to ensure that the treatment that they received when they came home never comes to our young men and women.”
Wounded Vietnam Veterans like Raul Campbell made sure of that in his own way, through working with service members at the V-A.
"They have more benefits than any other era that came back. They have more benefits available to them because of what we went without, we fought for,” Campbell said.
The director of the Warrior and Family Support Center says there's so much interest in volunteering at the center, there's currently a waiting list nearly 100 names long.