JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas –
He arrived at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston in August 2006 for treatment of his combat injuries and has never really left. During his recovery, when he felt better and started to move around, Charles Dominguez and his family spent time at the Warrior & Family Support Center to assist in his healing.
That long road to recovery has led him to the WFSC almost every day since his first visit almost 12 years ago. Today, he serves as the facility manager, overseeing the complex that sits on nearly 14 acres of JBSA-Fort Sam Houston, serving the wounded, ill and injured military members and their families.
“I volunteered here as a Soldier, I believed in its mission – helping wounded warriors and family members out – and I’ve stayed on board pretty much from the time I got my DD-214 (Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty),” Dominguez said.
The Ontario, Calif., native suffered near-fatal injuries in Ramadi, Iraq, when a suicide bomber detonated at the Iraqi camp he lived and worked as a police transition team member. Dominguez, a military police corporal at the time, received second and third degree burns over 26 percent of his body on his face, back and hands.
The Army medically evacuated him and the other injured American Soldiers out of Iraq to Germany, before arriving at Brooke Army Medical Center. He and his family utilized the WFSC, which was still in its infancy on the second floor of Powless Guest House, as a respite away from the sterile environment of hospital waiting rooms.
“We used it to get away from everything, the whole hospital environment,” he said recently before the start of his shift at the WFSC. “It was a good way to network at the time, there wasn’t a WTB (Warrior Transition Battalion), so whatever information you got was from other wounded warriors and family members.”
Recently, Dominguez oversaw the construction of a canopy over Freedom Park Amphitheater on the WFSC campus. Dominguez attended the re-dedication ceremony May 17, the warmest day of the year, to date, with the sun beaming down from high in the Texas sky.
The former 1st Armored Division Soldier said the canopy offers a 15 to 20 degrees Fahrenheit temperature difference when under it and away from the sun. The 12,000-square-foot canopy opens the amphitheater up for use throughout the day, not just in the early hours.
“Now we can use it for different stuff, more activities during the day,” Dominguez said. “Everybody’s not crunched to use it first thing in the morning now.”
The original center opened in 2003, with the current WFSC being built and opened five years later.
“They’ve got two world-class facilities here, in the hospital and the rehabilitation center, and they deserve a world-class facility for socializing and doing what they need to do to rehabilitate,” said retired Army Lt. Gen. Glynn Mallory of the WFSC complex in a 2008 Army interview.
Mallory served on the board that oversaw the fundraising and construction of the WFSC, which sits adjacent to the Center for the Intrepid. Both facilities received private funding for their construction and operating costs.
Now, with the addition of the canopy over the Freedom Park Amphitheater, paid for by private organizations, they’ve got an outdoor area for meetings, cookouts, movies, or for WFSC visitors to just sit outside away from the sun.
“The new structure is a testament to the nation’s continued support for our wounded, ill and injured warriors and their families, and honors their service and sacrifices,” wrote Acting Secretary of the Army Ryan D. McCarthy in an October 25, 2017, note accepting the canopy gift.
An outdoor fitness trail, a therapeutic garden with waterfall and a recreation area makeup Freedom Park, located behind the WFSC building.
The amphitheater is open year round and individuals, or units, interested in holding an event there can call 210-916-8234.