Wounded Vet Leads Walter Reed’s Soldier, Family Support Center
By Rudi Williams
Special to American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Aug. 23, 2007 Permanently blinded and severely wounded by a booby trap in Vietnam in 1969, Stephen Maguire spent more than 17 months being treated at Walter Reed Army Medical Center here.
Now Maguire has returned to Walter Reed to help wounded warriors and their families obtain assistance that wasn’t available when he was hospitalized here.
He’s now director of the Soldier and Family Support Center at Walter Reed, formerly known as the Medical Family Assistance Center. The support center staff is a team of active-duty officers, noncommissioned officers and enlisted soldiers appointed by the commanding general to coordinate resources and act as a point of contact for patients and their families.
When he was hospitalized at Walter Reed, no organization was available to help wounded veterans and their families with “little needs,” he said.
The “little needs” include things like help with mortgage and rent payments, home insurance, car and car insurance payments, storage fees, airfare, car repairs, child care, utility bills and telephone bills.
“The Red Cross was the only one that I recall existed, but so often the answer to the question was, ‘It’s not available,’” the medically retired Army captain said. “You stopped asking the question after awhile.
“Red Cross volunteers brought books around to the rooms for the wounded,” he said. “What other things the Red Cross did I have no idea. But I never heard of any other organization that gave anybody anything.
“The families got absolutely nothing,” Maguire added. . “They were not authorized anything; … they didn’t get anything.”
Today, the Walter Reed Society helps provide assistance to families with everyday needs that fall between the cracks. But wounded servicemembers and their families need a “smooth way to access things,” Maguire said. That’s where the Soldier and Family Support Center comes in: as a conduit to getting assistance from the Walter Reed Society and other organizations.
The Soldier and Family Support Center is staffed with about 20 people who help wounded warriors and their families with everyday needs that the military doesn’t provide.
“If, for instance, they have a monetary need to pay some bills back home, they can apply through us to the society,” Maguire noted. “Asking for help from the society is usually one of the last resorts after seeking help from Army Emergency Relief and other organizations. It could be a wife or parent who left their job to be with their wounded loved one at Walter Reed and have exhausted their funds.”
The center helps soldiers and families “maneuver through the system,” said Maguire, who holds a doctorate in psychology. “It’s one thing to provide things, but you have to have a conduit to help people work through the system. Back in the days when I was a patient here, the Red Cross may have provided more than books, but I had no idea how to approach them for help.”
(Retired Army Sgt. Maj. Rudi Williams is with the Walter Reed Society.)