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The Center for the Intrepid: A National Treasure

Updated on July 7, 2012
Drjacki profile image

Jacqueline Thompson is a practicing physician currently residing in North Carolina.

Center for the Intrepid

Brooke Army Medical Center

What if this happened to you?

Imagine the horror that a military spouse must feel when the phone rings and they are summoned by a stranger to immediately fly to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany. The first thought is that their loved one is going to die. These were the words of a real Army wife when she received just such a call one day in 2007. Her husband, Staff Sargent Shilo Harris was badly injured in an improvised explosive device blast that ripped through his vehicle while patrolling in Iraq. Three men were killed and one other survived along with Shilo. But SSG Harris had sustained horrific burn injuries that were disfiguring and disabling including the loss of several fingers, his ears, a portion of his nose among other injuries. He would never be the same.

Once the initial days of his stabilization and transport from Iraq through Germany and back to the States was complete, the real work of recovery had to begin. Burn injuries are particularly challenging as are those of multiple limb loss. And over the course of the 10 years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Army Medical Department (AMEDD) has had to apply many lessons learned in an effort to support these severely wounded warriors and their families. It remains a work in progress down a rocky road, but new facilities like the Center for the Intrepid (CFI) have advanced the game substantially.

The CFI in San Antonio, Texas was built with private funding garnered from some 600,000 donors as an expression of gratitude for the selfless service of these war veterans. The center opened its doors to wounded warrior care in 2007 and has proven that the money given was well-spent. The architecturally stunning exterior structure encompasses 65,000 square feet of rehabilitation space including state-of-the-art computer assisted gait lab, an indoor pool and track, a climbing wall and lab for the fabrication of prosthetic devices.

But even more impressive than the bells and whistles of the facility is the caliber of the people who go to work there each day. Their unmatched dedication to excellence in warrior care in addition to their sensitivity to the family issues of each patient make them the most valuable asset. Strategically situated immediately adjacent to Brooke Army Medical Center, home of the world-renowned burn treatment center, the CFI is uniquely positioned to aid severely injured military men and women over the months and even years that is often required for recovery and reintegration into civilian life.

No one can ever know what Mrs. Katheryn Harris felt the day she had that devastating call, but because of innovations in battlefield and rehabilitation medicine, her soldier survived to come back home. More wounded than ever before are surviving what would previously have been fatal injuries to make the trip home. And once they return, medical science and the kindness and generosity of the American people must kick in for these men and women...our greatest national treasure of all.

Climbing Wall

CIF Pool


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    • kimh039 profile image

      Kim Harris 6 years ago

      I had never heard of Fisher House and just googled it: It's kind of like a Ronald McDonald house. I'll pass it on. Thanks. I agree that Wounded Warrior Project is the most organized and effective effort by far.

    • Drjacki profile image

      Drjacki 6 years ago from North Carolina

      @Kimh039 - That's cool that you did AIT at Ft. Sam 30 years ago! I was there for residency training ALMOST that long ago...1990 to be exact. The old BAMC is still there, but it is now a secure building, so I can't go in and see where my first child was born :( - there are many things happening now with the combined Air Force facility and Brooke Army to become an entity known as SAMMC (San Antonio Military Medical Center). The Fisher House is always needing donations, and the Wounded Warrior Project is expanding with the ongoing need for donors. People can go online to pledge a one-time amount or even a monthly amount via credit card...they make it really easy to give. That is my favorite organization because it is well-run and really does some amazing things with the money. I am a huge veterans supporter myself, and I thank you for doing what you do in your corner of this world. My ultimate job goal is to work for the VA - they need more doctors (especially docs who are also vets) who can bring energy and compassion to the workplace.

    • American View profile image

      American View 6 years ago from Plano, Texas


      Great Article, up and awesome. Keep up the good work

    • kimh039 profile image

      Kim Harris 6 years ago

      That's Ft Sam Houston, right? I did my AIT there and went to Fitzsimons AMC in CO - which is now closed. While I was at the Academy of Health Sciences at Ft Sam, I don't remember ever seeing the hospital. I believe my address was USAAHS-BAMC, Ft Sam... (30 yrs ago!) Our kids were born at Bassett AMC in Fairbanks:) memories.

      I am glad to hear that this facility was able to come to fruition out of generosity of some donors. Because of the economy and uncertainty, it's refreshing to see that people are able to be generous.

      Let me know if you are aware of a particular need for a veteran or group of veterans. I belong to a veterans group at work, and could pass it along. We're often looking for ideas/ways to help.