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Freedom Park opens on Fort Sam Houston

Freedom Park offers physical rehab, peaceful escape for military families

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SAN ANTONIO - A ribbon cutting Monday opened Freedom Park on Fort Sam Houston.

The roughly $4.5 million project was made possible thanks to more than 7,000 donors from the community, said Steve Huffman who serves as president of the non-profit Returning Heroes Home.

The park has been in use for 6 months, but Monday marked its official opening.

The organization serves wounded warriors and built the park as an extension of the Warrior and Family Support Center on post that assists military families with a variety of services while their loved ones receive treatment at SAMM-C.

The park boasts luscious green space, fountains, a walking and running trail, exercise stations, benches, tables and even an amphitheater.

“I call it the Army’s living room because it has everything there for the family,” said Public Affairs Officer, Col. Wayne Shanks.

Open 24/7, the park is a place where wounded troops can work with physical therapists or on their own to regain their strength and independence after suffering serious injuries.

“I actually got to try out some running legs today, so maybe I’ll get to use them at the track later this week,” said Larkin O’Hurn, who lost both his legs and one arm in an IED explosion in Afghanistan.

But the park doesn’t just tend to physical needs. It’s also a place designed to offer military families a peaceful escape during some of the most difficult times in their lives.

“To get away from doctors and nurses and other well-meaning people who you really need, but sometimes you need a break,” said O’Hurn.

"Whenever I’m upset, I just come out and sit in the flower garden. I know that sounds funny, but this place just helps out a lot,” said Spc. Robert Butler, who was injured in an rollover accident in Afghanistan.

And it’s as much a benefit to caregivers as it is to the wounded warriors themselves

"The normal that they were used to isn’t here anymore,” said Judith Markelz, director of the Warrior Family Support Center. “Because here life is all about how you handle ‘plan b’. And part of ‘plan b’ is learning how to interact with others in the whole new that you have become.”

The six acre park is open to all service members receiving treatment at SAMM-C or on the BAMC campus. It is also open to everyone on Fort Sam.

For a list of recent stories Myra Arthur has done, click here.

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