Army Reserve Opens Second Community Center
By Army Sgt. 1st Class Mark Bell
81st Regional Support Command
BREVARD, N.C., May 17, 2010 Tucked away at the entrance of the Pisgah National Forest in western North Carolina, this community of about 6,000 residents welcomed the nation’s second Army Strong Community Center during a grand opening ceremony May 15.
Several hundred soldiers, veterans, family members, business owners and community leaders helped to launch the second community-based center that’s filled with resources designed to take care of not only Army Reserve families, but also any military families seeking assistance.
“Thank you for hosting us in God’s country,” Lt. Gen. Jack C. Stultz, chief of the Army Reserve, said during the early-morning ceremony. “I’m glad to be here to celebrate what America is really about. For me, at least, it brings you back home to places like Brevard, N.C., and to see really what the strength of America is.
“It’s not in Washington D.C.,” the general continued. “It’s not in the halls of Congress. It’s in Brevard, N.C., and other small communities across America.”
The center -- the second of its kind, with the other located in Rochester, N.Y. -- will give military families and veterans the information, services and support they otherwise would have to drive to a major military base to find, officials said.
Located more than 160 miles from Fort Jackson, S.C., and more than 250 miles from Fort Bragg, N.C., Brevard was selected because of its remote location from a major military installation, Stultz explained. “If you build it, they will come,” he said, quoting a famous line from the movie “Field of Dreams.”
When the Brevard community was selected as the second community center location, Stultz said, everyone asked him and his family programs staff why they chose the town.
“Why not?” Stultz said he responded. “Why wouldn’t we choose Brevard? We said, ‘Soldiers and family members need help there.’”
Though the weekend event marked the center’s official grand opening, over the past several months more than 100 families have walked through the Brevard Army Strong Community Center to ask questions, get information, or find comfort in knowing someone is there to help. Stultz noted that one-third of the families walking through the door were active-duty families seeking assistance.
“We have to bring the installations to the soldiers and their communities,” Stultz said, “because they don’t have a Fort Campbell, they don’t have a Fort Drum, they don’t have Fort Hood in Brevard, N.C. -- so we have to bring it to them.”
That, he said, is what the Army Strong Community Center does.
“It establishes, for us, a center that says, ‘If you are military in western North Carolina, we are here for you,’” Stultz said. “We are here to take care of you. We are here to offer services. We are here to find solutions.”
For the Army Reserve to be successful, Stultz said, he needs four things: a soldier, that soldier’s family, the soldier’s employer and a supportive community.
“A community like Brevard has to be there for that soldier and that soldier’s family – especially when I take that soldier away,” he said.
For the Army Reserve family, the center is a place where the community can plug in, Stultz said. His wife, Laura, recalled past difficulties of being alone with four children when her husband deployed to Iraq.
The general gave full credit for the community center concept to his wife, who said she remembers not being able to attend numerous family readiness group meetings because of the distance to travel and her life as a temporary single mom.
“I knew there was something missing,” she said. “I didn’t feel connected.”
All that changed, she said, when her husband was sworn in as Army Reserve chief in May 2006.
“I said, ‘This is it. This is my chance,’” she said about helping families left behind while their spouses deploy overseas. “I wanted to bring a military installation to the communities.” The general’s wife said she was happy to assist in the opening of the Army Reserve’s second center and hopes there will be many more in the future.
Laura Stultz envisions local communities coming together with area military residents to help those in need.
“I have every confidence that the people of North Carolina will step up and support their local military families,” she said.
Air Force veteran and Brevard mayor Jimmy Harris pledged his community’s support for the new center.
“Families are important, and they make a difference in the lives of soldiers,” he said. “When I am amongst you, and I see these flags and these volunteers in uniform, I am a proud American. I am proud of being a part of something that is this good.”
Harris said the residents of Brevard will stand tall and are committed to the Army Strong Community Center.
“We will stand and support you in this mission,” the mayor told Stultz. “We are proud that we were selected. This is a blessing.”