FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas (Army News Service, Jan. 29, 2007) - With the star-studded grand opening just a day away, Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Richard A. Cody officiated over the first awards ceremony at the Center for the Intrepid yesterday at Fort Sam Houston.
The official dedication of the $50 million, state-of-the-art rehabilitation center for wounded warriors today is slated to draw a crowd of 3,000, along with a slew of celebrities and politicians that include Senators Hillary Clinton and John McCain, Denzel Washington, John Mellencamp and Rosie O'Donnell.
Yesterday, however, Cody's focus was not on the grand opening or the celebrity cast, but on Master Sgt. Daniel Robles, who was being honored with a Purple Heart and Bronze Star in the lobby of the new center.
"We have a Warrior Ethos in the Army that Sgt. Robles has lived up to all of his career, and certainly on that day in April 2006 in Baghdad when he was serving as an NCO, leading Soldiers when he was injured," the general said.
The mortar platoon sergeant was injured April 8, 2006, while on a patrol in southern Baghdad. Robles was riding in the lead vehicle of a convoy when it hit an IED. Robles was riddled with shrapnel and lost both of his legs below the knee as a result of the explosion.
"Since then he's been going back and living that ethos of 'mission first, never accepting defeat, never quitting and never leaving a fallen comrade," Cody said.
Cody said that same mission applies to the Center for the Intrepid, made possible through private donations and the commitment of Arnold and Ken Fisher, a father-son team who head up the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund and the Fisher House Foundation.
"Mission first is getting Soldiers like Sgt. Robles back on their feet; never quitting is his job; never accepting defeat is our job to help him; and never leaving a fallen comrade is what the Fisher House Foundation and the CFI Foundation (have done), and all of those great Americans who have donated their dollars and their hearts to let our Soldiers know that if you are wounded on the battlefield, we will stay with you ...," Cody said.
Despite his injuries, Robles stood to receive his Bronze Star and Purple Heart, which Cody called a "badge of honor."
"I hate giving out Purple Hearts, but I'm also proud to give out Purple Hearts because I know the pain and suffering that not only the Soldier goes through, but also his family in helping him in coming back, never quitting and giving him back his life."
Regardless of their injuries, Cody said many of the Soldiers he meets profess their love of this country and the Army. "Most of them say, 'General, can we stay in' I have so much to offer.'"
The general said Robles asked him the same question. He gave his answer at the awards ceremony.
"You have my commitment as vice chief of staff of the Army, we'll keep you in the Army as long as you want to stay."
Robles, who has 17 years already under his belt, said he's excited he will be able to complete a 20-year career. "It's pretty amazing. He even gave me his card."
"I couldn't ask to be in a better place coming to Fort Sam Houston and Brooke Army Medical Center," Robles said. "I can only imagine what will be accomplished once this place is fully open. Tomorrow is a big day for Fort Sam and all of the services."
Along with the Center for the Intrepid, two new Fisher Houses will open today at Fort Sam Houston. The 21-room houses, which bear a striking resemblance to an upscale hotel, provide a home away from home for families of wounded warriors.
"People ask me why we do what we do," said Ken, chairman and CEO of the Fisher House Foundation. "Look to my left," he said referring to Robles. "Can you imagine this sergeant going through his rehab and not having his family with him' This is exactly why we do what we do."