Senior noncommissioned officers at the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research Burn Center read off the names of fallen warriors during a ceremony of remembrance and recognition March 7 at the San Antonio Military Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston.

On March 6, 2003, Lance Cpl. Ian Lennon, a motor transportation Marine with the 5th Marine Regiment in Kuwait, was burned in an explosion while fueling a tanker. The next day, Lennon, burned 33 percent of his body, was transported and admitted to the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research Burn Center at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. Since that day and for the next 10 years, the Burn Center has cared for 1,147 other wounded warriors who sustained severe burns and/or associated injuries, most directly in support of Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom (OIF/OEF).

Ten years to the day, March 7, 2013, the Burn Center staff members and more than 100 burn survivors gathered at the San Antonio Military Medical Center auditorium for a special ceremony of remembrance and recognition to honor of all who served, in remembrance of those who died, and in recognition of those who survived OIF/OEF injuries.

"Seventy of these brave Americans subsequently died of their wounds," said Burn Center Director, Col. (Dr.) Evan Renz. "In some cases, they died during subsequent tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan."

To honor the 70 fallen warriors, Burn Center senior enlisted noncommissioned officers from the different departments read off their names as their photographs were projected onto a screen on stage.

"We just paid respect to some of the country's greatest men and women," said Renz, explaining the special bond formed among the staff, patients and families. "We know them and more importantly we all love them. We will always love them, and that's what makes this place [Burn Center] so special because this place doesn't run on funding, it doesn't run on schedules--it runs on love. It runs on love for our Soldiers and our fellow Americans in uniform, which is then passed on for the greater good of our community."

"It was an incredibly emotional event. I cried through the whole slide show," said Burn Center physician-assistant Kelley Thompson, who helped organize the event. Thompson assisted during severalof the missions to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, to transport patients injured in Afghanistan and Iraq back to San Antonio. "I had a lot to do with most of these patients from the time we picked them up in Germany to caring for them here. So to be with many of them at their bedside with their families and then to see them up there, it was tough."

During his remarks, Renz also acknowledged the accomplishments of the burn survivors during the last 10 years. "It's impossible to list them all. You have basically broken all the rules," he said to the burn survivors. "I thought I had heard all the possible adaptive behaviors to deal with severe life-long injuries, but everyday I'm hearing of a new one. I absolutely believe that it is the key to your resiliency."

While not having appeared on a national dance show like J.R. Martinez or being a stand-up comedian like Bobby Henline, Lennon shares similar circumstances with Martinez and Henline. All three spent about a year or more recovering in the Burn Center from burns sustained in support of OIF/OEF they all lead productive lives despite their scars and disfigurements. Lennon now works for a nonprofit organization dedicated to honoring and empowering wounded warriors--many of them burn patients. "It's overwhelming to be here, knowing there are lots of guys who are still around," said Lennon.

To conclude the ceremony, Renz thanked everyone for their attendance, the families for their support, and the wounded warriors for their service.

"You are absolutely the key to our survival as providers," said Renz. "You have touched our lives more than you'll ever know, and we can never thank you enough, we can never repay you, and we owe you everything."

Page last updated Wed March 20th, 2013 at 09:01