Defense Secretary Visits ‘Amazing’ Army Rehabilitation Center
By Elaine Wilson and Norma Guerra
Special to American Forces Press Service
FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas, May 3, 2007 Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates visited here today to meet wounded warriors and take a firsthand look at the Center for the Intrepid, the Army’s state-of-the-art physical rehabilitation center.
“Amazing,” Gates said, summing up his opinion of the center with one word.
The $50 million facility, built thanks to the generosity of 600,000 Americans, is dedicated to the nation’s military heroes wounded in support of Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom. The facility, designed with the latest generation’s interests in mind, includes an indoor running track, firing range, wave pool, climbing wall, prosthetic center, gait lab and a computer assisted rehabilitation environment known as CAREN.
As Gates toured the 60,000-square-foot center, he stopped to thank each wounded warrior he met along the way for their service and sacrifice, and he presented each with a secretary of defense coin.
During a tour of the therapy gym, amputee Army Spc. Robert Price demonstrated the two-story rock wall, then had a challenge for Gates.
“Sir, it’s your turn next,” Price said.
Gates laughed as he declined the offer, but did present Price with a coin.
At the wave pool, called The Flowrider, Army Spc. Patrick Moore and Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Derek McGinnis rode “boogie boards” to demonstrate how the pool strengthens core muscles and improves balance.
Gates followed up his visit to the center with a tour of one of two new Fisher Houses adjacent to the rehab facility. Fisher Houses serve as a home away from home for families of patients receiving medical care at major military and Veterans Affairs medical centers. The additional houses, which opened Jan. 29 in conjunction with the center, bring the on-post total to four.
The 21-room homes are built in the newer Fisher House style with a sprawling 16,800 square feet. Each home is equipped with a full-service kitchen, formal dining room, several sitting rooms and bedrooms equipped with DVD/VCR systems and flat-screen TVs.
Gates said he was impressed by the size and the capacity of the homes and called the Fisher Houses “a great service for the families.”
He met with residents, including two Army wives, who asked for coins on behalf of their husbands recovering at Brooke Army Medical Center.
At the tour’s conclusion, Gates thanked the Fisher House staff for all that they do for the service members and their families.
Shortly after visiting the Fisher House, Gates met with the Commission on Care for America’s Returning Wounded Warriors.
The president established the commission March 6 to conduct a comprehensive review of military medical care at both Department of Defense and Department of VA hospitals and outpatient facilities. Bush asked its members to recommend ways to improve the transition to other military service or civilian life, ensure high-quality services for wounded troops and increase their access to benefits and services.
To that end, the nine-member committee, co-chaired by former Kansas Sen. Robert Dole and former Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala, had earlier in the day privately met with service members, family members, health care providers and other interested parties at BAMC. The commission’s fact-finding mission will continue tomorrow when members will host an all-day public meeting at the San Antonio Airport Hilton.
Gates will conclude his trip to Texas tomorrow after a visit with wounded warriors, their families and hospital staff at BAMC. This morning, Gates was in Dallas, where he spoke to the Greater Dallas Chamber of Commerce.
(Elaine Wilson and Norma Guerra work for the Fort Sam Houston Public Affairs Office.)