After losing both legs in the Iraq war, Col. Gregory Gadson knows how difficult it is to come home wounded. That's why he has such high hopes for the world's largest USO Center.
It opened today at Fort Belvoir and will be used by thousands of wounded soldiers
It will include twenty thousand square feet of rest, relaxation, education and entertainment for wounded warriors.
The finishing touches are being completed on a $100 million dollar project that took almost three years to complete.
“One of the first things that we did was meet with wounded warriors and their families to really get an understanding of what their needs were,” says Brian Pilot, principal of Studio Architecture.
It will include classrooms for job training, a multipurpose room for group gatherings, a therapeutic garden and even a game room.
Pilot says it's one of the most rewarding projects he's ever worked on.
“(It’s a) very rewarding feeling to see it work the way you planned,” Pilot says.
The new center was built for universal access. Many of the rooms and hallways can fit multiple wheelchairs.
In the kitchen, for instance , there's lots of space to move around and low countertops and appliances so anyone can reach.
Wounded warrior Charles Eggleston was practicing his swing in the golf simulator. It was donated to the center from the company Full Swing.
Eggleston says not only is it fun, it's a form of physical and mental therapy.
“Even though we have rehab, we have appointments and everything, we just want to get away and relax,” he says.
This is the largest and most expensive project the USO has taken on and they say it's worth every penny.
“It was very special to see the people that we serve in this building,” says Cheryl Hall, COO for USO. “On my drive home my heart was full. It was spectacular.”