Senior leader honors Soldiers, thanks BAMC staff for service
July 18, 2013
JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO -- FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas (July 17, 2013) -- A senior leader from the Pentagon honored two Soldiers and visited with warriors, families and staff at Brooke Army Medical Center July 17.
Jessica L. Wright, acting undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, presented Sgt. Anthony Ayers and Spc. Joseph Contreras with their Purple Heart medals and certificates, while Maj. Gen. Jimmie Keenan, commander of Southern Regional Medical Command, was the host for the ceremony.
Wright, a retired veteran with 35 years of service and a mother of a deployed Soldier, voiced her admiration and empathy to the Purple Heart warriors at the ceremony.
"Clearly an honor to be here," she said. "I am humbled because I am a former Soldier and a mom of a Soldier … I am humbled to be here in your presence. Thank you very much for everything you have done.
"The fact that you have given your time and energy and of yourself to preserve this intangible gift -- that we, the United States enjoy every day -- thank you very much for that," Wright added.
Ayers, an infantryman, was conducting a combined dismounted patrol in Afghanistan on May 14 when he was struck by an improvised explosive device resulting in his combat injuries.
Serving as a tank crewman, Contreras was conducting a mounted patrol when his vehicle was struck by an IED Aug. 4, 2011, resulting in his combat injuries.
"… To my grandpa, who was a World War II veteran -- I know he would be proud of me right now if he was here," Contreras said.
After the ceremony, Wright said in an interview that the Purple Heart medal is something that the Soldiers don't want to have, but "once they are wounded, we owe them the honor, we owe them the dedication and the respect, not just today but every day of their lives ... They have given us this intangible gift and there are a lot us that don't realize that gift is freedom," she said.
Wright also understands the apprehension family members feel when a loved one is deployed, but said the military provides the best medical care, equipment and technology to ensure service members' safety.
"As a Soldier, I have gone over to [Afghanistan] myself and sent a lot of people over there, but as a mom, your heart goes -- and so my son is there and there's not a moment in the day that I'm not thinking about him and his safety," Wright told the reporter. "But I know this -- I know that he has the best equipment, I know he has the best training and I know he has the best leaders that this world can offer, and that he will be fine; and if he is not fine, it's something that God wanted."
Following the ceremony, Wright visited with warriors, their families and staff at the Warrior Transition Battalion, Center for the Intrepid, Fisher House, Burn Center and the Emergency Department at San Antonio Military Medical Center.
She thanked the warriors, families and staff for their dedication and gave words of encouragement and gratitude for their commitment to our country.
"We couldn't do it without these people who give their time and energy. All of you are truly a gift from God," said Wright.
Wright is the deputy senior policy advisor to the Secretary of Defense on recruitment, career development, pay and benefits for 1.4 million active duty military personnel, 1.3 million Guard and Reserve personnel, 680,000 Department of Defense civilians, and is responsible for overseeing the overall state of military readiness.