Soldiers bond with help from community

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Capt. Jeff Strauss of the U.S. Army’s 4th Infantry Division cuddles with his 7-year-old daughter Jona Strauss at the “Heroes’ Tribute” at Fort Hood on Feb. 2. Strauss returned Nov. 15, 2006, after a year of duty in Iraq.  Courtesy

Capt. Jeff Strauss of the U.S. Army’s 4th Infantry Division cuddles with his 7-year-old daughter Jona Strauss at the “Heroes’ Tribute” at Fort Hood on Feb. 2. Strauss returned Nov. 15, 2006, after a year of duty in Iraq. Courtesy

Student club accepting donations for center that helps returning soldiers.

By Miranda Ebersole

A donation drive is under way for the nonprofit organization, Returning Heroes Home, coordinated by this college’s Public Administration Club.

Returning Heroes Home operates the Warrior and Family Support Center, a place where injured soldiers and their families can bond with each other and fight depression, administrative assistant Celina Gallego said Oct. 22.

The Public Administration Club is conducting a drive to gather needed items for the center, Coordinator Sylvia DeLeon, club adviser, said Oct. 22.

The items needed include children’s movies, board and electronic games, gift cards, diapers and money, DeLeon said.

People can also donate phone cards, she said.

These cards will allow soldiers to call family members who are not able to be with them in San Antonio, she said.

The center is housed in a 1,200-square-foot room at Fort Sam Houston near Brooke Army Medical Center and sits on the top floor of Powless Hall, a military hotel, Gallego said.

The center has been operating since 2003 and offers a place for soldiers and families to play games, watch movies and socialize, Gallego said.

Many families of soldiers are housed in Fisher House, military-provided housing, she said.

“We consider Fisher House to be the bedroom, and the Warrior and Family Support Center to be the living room,” she said.

Often, families and soldiers need to get away from the hospital and just relax.

The center often organizes day trips for families and even hosts a weekly dinner, Gallego said.

Since a large number of people usually attend these dinners, there is often an overflow problem, with people spilling out of the room, into the rest of the hotel and even outside.

According to the Returning Heroes Home Web site, they are in the process of building a 12,000-square-foot facility, which is expected to be finished in August.

This facility will have more amenities and space, Gallego said.

The leader of the center is Judith Markelz, who is often fondly referred to as “Mom” by the soldiers, Gallego said.

Markelz has two assistants and about 50 volunteers, Gallego said.

The drive for this center will last until 4 p.m. on Dec. 3.

Items can be dropped off at Room 510 of Moody Learning Center and checks should be made out to Returning Heroes Home, DeLeon said.

The club will deliver the items to the center once the drive ends, DeLeon said.

Donations

• children’s movies

• board and electronic games

• toys

• diapers

• phone cards 

• gift cards

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