CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. – The Marine Corps has unveiled the first West Coast barracks for Marines and sailors wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Wounded Warrior Center is an alternative to the often-empty quarters that house many injured troops while their units remain overseas. It is the second Marine barracks for the wartime wounded; the first opened last year at Camp Lejeune, N.C., and is run by a Marine colonel who was injured in Iraq.
The newest barracks at Camp Pendleton, north of San Diego, look like a moderate hotel, with TVs, carpeted hallways, separate bedrooms and sitting areas. Donated handmade quilts bearing patriotic messages drape each bed. There is an entertainment room with video games and a DVD player.
"We wanted them to have a place where they would be with their fellow warriors," Lt. Gen. John F. Sattler, the commanding general of U.S. Marine Corps Forces Central Command, said Thursday.
Space at the new barracks is limited to 25 troops — certainly not enough to accommodate all the wounded. More than 19,000 U.S. military personnel have been injured in Iraq, including 6,195 Marines and 415 sailors as of Aug. 5, according to the Department of Defense. In Afghanistan, 851 U.S. military personnel have been wounded.
Troops can stay up to 90 days at the new barracks, must be able to bathe themselves and not need a personal helper.
The first Marine to move in was Lance Cpl. Joshua Rynders, who was injured in April when a mortar round exploded 10 feet behind him. He was setting up an observation post for the Iraqi army east of Fallujah.
Rynders, 20, of McHenry, Ill., on Wednesday checked into the new barracks, which is quieter than his regiment's quarters. Those were near several big-gun ranges.
"This is kind of secluded from that," he said.
A sniper shot Cpl. Jackson Luna, 23, through the lower back and into the intestines as he put fencing around a patrol base near Ramadi in June.
Luna, who moved in Thursday, said he does not know what to do next or if he will be able to return to active service.
"This is a good place to start thinking about that," Luna said.