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Fort Meade Opens New USO Center

The center features a lounge with computers and flat screen televisions.

The USO on Tuesday formally opened a new center on Fort Meade to give service members another place to relax and get extra support. 

The center on Cavarly Road was constructed entirely for free and features computers with wi-fi, two large flat screen televisions, a food pantry and patio area. 

Fort Meade officials said the new center was a pleasant upgrade from its previous location, which was smaller and less convenient. 

"It was put in a corner on post," said Col. Edward Rothstein, Fort Meade's Installation Commander. "It was there, it was supporting our community, but there was so much more the USO could provide. And that's what this is...it allows our service members and their families to come and take a break."

Tuesday's grand opening featured a ribbon cutting and appearances by WWE wrestler David Otunga and Stephanie McMahon, the daughter of WWE founder Vince McMahon. Otunga and McMahon presented a championship belt to installation officials. 

To build the center, contractors renovated an existing building on base on a pro bono basis. Harkins Builders was the lead builder, and several companies have committed to multi-year sponsorships to maintain the center. 

The opening of the center comes as the military continues to struggle with a high rate of suicides. The military reported 349 suicides in 2012, the highest total since the Pentagon began tracking them. Gen. Keith Alexander, the commander of U.S. Cyber Command and director of the National Security Agency, alluded to this news in his remarks Tuesday. 

"It is a problem we all have to address, and I think the military is addressing it," Alexander said. "But we can't do it ourselves. How do we take care of the troops and let them know that we care? That's what the USO does."

The USO said it expects to host about 18 events per year at the center, and will have between 2,000 and 3,000 guests. 

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