Defense Secretary Thanks Wounded Warriors for Sacrifice
May 4, 2007
FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas (Army News Service, May 4, 2007) - Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates today thanked dozens of wounded Warriors for their service and sacrifice during a visit to Brooke Army Medical Center.
The personal visit, "really shows you care," said 1st Lt. James Barclay, a burn patient wounded by an improvised explosive device Aug. 19, 2006, in Afghanistan.
"There are a lot of people who care," Sec. Gates responded, shaking his hand.
Sec. Gates spent time with each servicemember, most times bedside, asking about their medical care, hometowns and future plans.
"This is the best facility in the world for burns," Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Robert Bruce told the secretary. "They treat us very good here." The Sailor was one of eight sailors injured Dec. 1, 2006, when a steam pipe ruptured aboard the Guam-based submarine tender USS Frank Cable. Two Sailors have since died from their injuries.
Sec. Gates passed on a personal message to the Sailors. "The Secretary of the Navy wanted me to make sure I met you," he said, thanking them for their sacrifice.
When Sec. Gates asked about the food, Sgt. 1st Class Jeremy Henderson joked, "The food is better here than it is in." The Soldier, from Fort Carson, Colo., was injured in Baghdad April 15, sustaining an injury to his hip from indirect fire. As Sec. Gates left the room, Sgt. 1st Class Henderson thanked him for coming, adding that he had just watched the secretary yesterday on TV addressing the Greater Dallas Chamber of Commerce.
"Don't believe everything you hear," Sec. Gates quipped, as he wished the Soldier a swift recovery.
Asked by the secretary if they wanted to continue their military service, many expressed a desire to stay in the military, despite the severity of their injuries.
"I want to stay in as long as I can - this is my life" said Staff Sgt. Scott Adams, who was injured in Iraq in January.
Some servicemembers were just as excited to meet a former Texas A&M University president as they were to meet a secretary of defense, particularly Marine 1st Lt. Daniel Patrick Moran, a burn patient. The Marine had met Sec. Gates at his college graduation in 2003 when the former university president awarded him his college degree. Moran had brought the pictures of himself and his brother with Sec. Gates at graduation and asked him to sign them.
"I can't tell you what an honor it is to see you again," said 1st Lt. Moran, with fellow "Aggie" and wife, Teal, and 4-week-old daughter, Macy, by his side.
Along with the autographs, the Marine had another request. He asked the secretary if he would officiate at his Purple Heart pinning ceremony sometime in the near future. "He said 'yes,'" said 1st Lt. Moran, calling Gates one of the "greatest" A&M presidents ever.
With A&M on his mind, Sec. Gates couldn't resist ribbing Navy Chief Petty Officer Peter Johns about wearing a University of Texas hat, A&M's primary rival. "That's why I wore it," the Sailor joked.
Maj. Gen. Russell Czerw, installation commander, said these types of visits carry more weight than any commission, report or study could. "Nothing can take the place of coming down and seeing how much the people here really care," he said. "You have to see it first hand to truly understand.
"I could see by their expressions, that the patients felt extremely special," Czerw said of the visit.
For many wounded Warriors, a few visits from leaders like Sec. Gates go a long way.
"It means a lot when someone comes here in person," said Sgt. 1st Class Robert Culbertson. "We don't need more medals or money, just someone to say thanks."
"Thank you for your service," the secretary replied.
Sec. Gates wrapped up his visit by expressing his appreciation to the hospital staff for providing the "best care."
"We encourage other senior leaders to come visit," said Col. Carlos Angueira, acting BAMC commander. "We're glad the secretary had the opportunity to see Fort Sam Houston and how important the care of wounded Warriors is to us."
(Elaine Wilson serves with the Fort Sam Houston Public Information Office.)