This past weekend, even though I am not a military spouse, I had the privilege of attending SpouseBUZZ Live in San Antonio, at the invitation of Carren, wife of milblogger Chuck Ziegenfuss. I had never met Carren before, but I've been a long-time reader and commenter at Chuck's place. Carren and the other ladies I met made me feel very welcome.
SpouseBUZZ Live itself was very interesting. The two panels ("A Humorous Look at the Milspouse Experience" and "Making the Most of the Milspouse Experience") were both very informative, at times very entertaining, or very touching. It made me understand that some things for the military family have changed quite a bit in the 17 years since my father retired after nearly 27 years of service, but it also reminded me that some things about military family life will probably never change.
After the event was over, some of the ladies wanted to go to Brooke Army Medical Center. There was a specific person one wanted to visit in the burn unit, and Carren and I wanted to see if we might be able to meet service members in the ortho ward. The other ladies were going to knit in the lobby while we went upstairs. When we checked in at the desk on the ortho ward, we were informed that there were actually only a couple of service members currently on the ward. The gentleman we spoke to walked us around the ward and showed us the brand new hospital beds the ward had just been outfitted with, to replace the original, 12-year old, beds. Carren, having become quite familiar with WRAMC and what a Wounded Warrior goes through while an in-patient was very much impressed with the new features of the bed: they will help to tilt the patient to the left or right, based on the doctor's orders, eliminating the need to stack pillows and to turn the patient manually; also, it can weigh the patient without having to move them out of the bed. We were able to meet one of the patients, a young Air Force lieutenant who lost a leg in a motorcycle accident (a woman pulled out in front of him) and his mother. I followed Carren's lead, since I had no prior experience meeting injured troops. Carren spoke to Mom about Soldiers' Angels and Valour-IT while I talked baseball with the LT. He's a Red Sox fan, and at the time, they had yet to be eliminated in the ALCS.
On Sunday, I went back down to San Antonio. The plan was to go to the Fisher House at BAMC to deliver some of the extra (very nice) giveaway bags from Saturday's event (and to share information about SpouseBUZZ, and to see check in to see what's going on. When we got back over to BAMC, and were to have meet a couple of "locals" at the Powless Guesthouse. Unfortunately, there was a family emergency, so we were on our own, but that didn't turn out to be any problem. We went into the Guesthouse and learned that the place we wanted to go, the Warrior and Family Support Center was housed on the second floor. One of the volunteers walked us up and introduced us. Once Carren explained what we were about, we went back out to my car to get the bag. The Center is the main gathering place for guests at Powless and the Fisher Houses, so we could leave all the bags there. Carren spoke at length with the volunteer who seemed to be "in charge", and Kate (another milspouse) and I interacted with the cutest little 2-year old girl who was there with a family member, and also were individually snagged by another volunteer - an older gentleman - to be told about the new facility that will be having it's grand opening on Monday, December 1st, 2008.
The Returning Heroes Home will give the officially named Warrior and Family Support Center about ten times the space they currently have with the second floor space at the Powless Guesthouse. Given all the services the Center provides, they really need it. Many area churches provide dinners for the Center. We were also told that at Christmas and Easter, the Jewish synagogues volunteer to provide dinner: they figure that since they aren't celebrating these holidays, they can gift the gift of their time to allow Christian volunteers to celebrate instead of working.
Seems someone came to Judith Markelz, the program manager, asking what they wished for. "A new building." Now, less than two years later, through the efforts of brothers Steve and Les Huffman, owner of Huffman Developments (a construction firm), that wish is coming true. The 3.589 million dollar project has been funded entirely with private donations. If you would like to help out, you can make a donation. At this point in time you can still make a donation of $50 to purchase a personalized paver brick (about 100 left) ("a tasteful and permanent way to honor your family or loved one"). Returning Heroes Home is a 501(c)(3) organization, so your donation would be tax deductible.
This architectural drawing is impressive enough, showing the Hill Country style that can be seen all around this part of Texas, but it doesn't do justice to the actual building, which we were able to get a glimpse of before heading out to take my new friends to the airport for their flight home.
This building, with the white rock and tin roof, would be at home on any Central Texas or Hill Country spread... While the volunteer who was bragging on it invited me to attend the grand opening, I don't think I'll be able to make it. However, I do hope to work out being able to volunteer there from time to time. I sent an email last night to the contact information I got on Sunday, but I haven't heard back yet. If anyone is interested in volunteering, drop me an email and I can pass along the contact info.
For a little background, this is a video about the Returning Heroes Home from July 2007...
...and this report from WOAI television from September 2007...