OREGON CITY, Ore. -- The nation's fourth Army Strong Community Center celebrated its grand opening on the Clackamas Community College campus Saturday.
The state of Oregon has long been a challenging place for soldiers. With a large Army Reserve contingent and no military bases, finding help to adjust to life back home can be difficult for returning soldiers.
The new Oregon City community center hopes to change that.
Army Strong Community Centers are part of a pilot project designed to help soldiers and their families get the programs and benefits they need.
Army Reserve specialist Jack Irish, from Oregon City, faced many challenges after returning home from a deployment.
"I was unemployed and looking at the end of it and wondering how I was going to pay bills to support my family," said Irish.
He found answers inside the Army Strong Center and now his pregnant wife and four kids are receiving his G.I. Bill benefits while he attends college to become a medical assistant.
"They walked me through the process and it's been amazing," he said.
A grand opening ceremony for this unique pilot project attracted top military brass, including the Commanding General of the United States Army Reserve.
"We wanted to get a center out in the community and Clackamas Community College offered us the opportunity," said Lt. General Jack Stultz.
Martha Schrader, wife of Oregon Congressman Kurt Schrader, actually created the center by connecting the military with the college.
"Its going to be the one-stop center where Oregon soldiers can get all their needs and services met," Schrader said.
"It was quite a battle in '03 when i came back," said Iraq war veteran Jacob Belles. He wished there would have been something like the Army Strong Center when he returned home with a broken back.
He's concerned about a wave of returning soldiers from Afghanistan and believes this center could help save lives.
"I'm very concerned about the influx. Unfortunately we don't all come back in one piece mentally or physically, so having this resource here is going to be huge on getting these people what they need," said Belles.
Army Veteran Tina Olsen, who returned home with mental trauma from Somalia, agrees.
"It's a nice comfortable setting loaded with information and support for soldiers and vets," said Olsen. "It's exactly what we need."
The Army Strong Community Center is not just for Army soldiers. Active members and veterans from all branches of the military are welcome, as are their families.
Click here for more information about the Army Strong Community Center