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Now that Fort Sam Houston has its $50 million state-of-the-art rehabilitation facility for wounded warriors, the next project is a $4 million state-of-the-art facility for their families.

Base officials expect to complete a new 12,000-square-foot Warrior Family Support Center in August, giving them a new, spacious headquarters for injured troops’ families to seek counseling, receive aid or simply relax.

“In our center now I can put my arms out and grab anyone I need, because we’re so crowded,” said Judith Markelz, program manager for the family support facility.

“Now we’re going from 1,200 square feet to 10 times that. We’ll miss some of the coziness, but we’ll be gaining so much.”

The base already offers a wide range of resources for families of patients recovering at the Center for the Intrepid and Brooke Army Medical Center, most made possible because of community donations.

Officials already have a TV lounge for families to enjoy, complete with video games for troops’ children.

More than 50 volunteers field questions about veterans affairs benefits, military health paperwork, long-term financial planning and other recovery issues. Around the holidays, staffers run shopping trips and help book plane tickets.

But the new facility will allow them to expand those offerings. Markelz said a small gym specifically for family members will provide a place to exercise separate from the active-duty gyms nearby.

A full computer lab will replace the five individual and in-demand computers in the current center. Extra conference rooms will allow more meetings and programs throughout the week.

“For the first time, I’ll have a kitchen in the center,” Markelz said. “We’ll have a sink to wash dishes after meals, instead of having to run into a bathroom to do that.”

The goal, officials said, is to make sure families are receiving as much attention as the troops recovering. Markelz said when soldiers know that their families are content and comfortable, they’re likely to focus more on their rehabilitation than other worries.

Spc. Scott Johnson, who was injured in a roadside bomb blast in Iraq two years ago, became a volunteer at the center after recovering from his injuries. He said meeting other families and being able to relax in a nonmedical environment was a “huge godsend” for both him and his family.

“A lot of times we see soldiers who had to come straight over from Afghanistan or Iraq,” he said.

“So we have personal hygiene items, clothes, shower shoes, if they need a shower chair because they can’t stand ... We just do whatever we can to meet those needs.”


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