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Healing Heroes: Fort Sam Houston rooted deep in history

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TWC News: Healing Heroes: Fort Sam Houston rooted deep in history
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After years of being known as Brooke Army Medical Center, the hospital underwent a historic name change to San Antonio Military Medical Center, or SAMMC, last year. The move was all part of a 2005 Base Realignment program to consolidate military medical training and services, but even though their name may be new, the home of the defense department's largest inpatient medical facility has historic roots.

Building 123 at Fort Sam Houston was once a mess hall. Now, it serves a whole new purpose as the post museum.

For acting museum director Jacqueline Davis, summing up more than 165 years of history is one tall order.

"Fort Sam Houston is a lot older than people think it is," Davis said. "We've been in town since 1845. We started out in downtown in rented buildings."

One of the rented buildings included the Alamo which served as the supply depot for the Army.

"The Army thought about moving to Austin, but again, the City of San Antonio did not want that to happen, so that's why they gave the donation of land down here," Davis said.

The city donated 92 acres of land, which became known as Government Hill.

"When we moved here, we had a wooden 12-man hospital that was replaced by a permanent 12-man hospital,” Davis said.

The hospital is now a visitor's quarters. Over the next 40 years, the post saw continual growth and expansion, but it wasn’t until after World War II when medicine began to play a much larger role at Fort Sam Houston.

"Just after the war, it became the home of the Army Medic, and all medical training in the Army was done here," Davis said.

With the change also came a change in mission, based on range space rather than function. The limited area prevented units from firing large weapons, like tanks, safely. The result was a combat unit post turned into a largely military medical training post.

Today, Fort Sam Houston is home to San Antonio Military Medical Center, formerly known as Brooke Army Medical Center. It’s the largest inpatient military medical facility for the department of defense.

"We call ourselves military city U.S.A.,” San Antonio Chamber of Commerce President Richard Perez said. “We've had a close relationship with the military for many, many years."

The post is located near the heart of San Antonio and is a vital lifeline to the city, adding up to more than $2.6 billion in economic impact.

"If we didn't have SAMMC here, if we didn't have Fort Sam Houston here, I suspect the robustness of our economy would be greatly diminished,” Perez said. “We have a tremendous amount of research going on that comes directly from the injured men and women who are coming back from harm’s way.”

One in six residents works in the bioscience and medical field.

Tuesday, we'll continue our series with a look inside a state-of-the-art rehab facility at Fort Sam Houston. See how the technology and treatment at the Center for the Intrepid is helping wounded warriors.

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