By Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Ray OdiernoMay 31, 2013
It is great to have so many people here from so many different parts of the country. I really appreciate you taking the opportunity to come out here and join us this evening at beautiful Fort Myer here at Whipple Field. I think as you sit here or stand here, you have a chance to look at history as you look to the front where you see our Nation's Capital, the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, things that mean something in our Nation's history. Many of us I know sometimes take for granted the things in this great country of ours. But for those of us that have had the opportunity to travel many places around the world, I will tell you that every time you get back home, you realize what a great country this is. The liberty and freedoms that we have are very rare in many other places around the world. As I look upon the city of Washington D.C. it reminds me of the sacrifice of others. We stood on the shoulders of those that came before us, who sacrificed in order to give us today, what we have in this great country. Today we are here to recognize people who continue to give back and sacrifice.
It really is my great honor this evening to have the opportunity to provide an award to the great people that we are going to honor tonight. The first is Ken Fisher. Ken is a very active philanthropist whose dedication to improving the lives of service members, wounded warriors, veterans and families has been recognized at the highest levels. Ken is the Chairman of the Fisher House Foundation, a non-profit that builds comfort homes near military, Veterans Affairs hospitals and medical centers for Wounded Warriors, and their families. Fisher House began in 1990 when Pauline Trost, wife of the Chief of the Naval Operations, Admiral Carlisle Trost, presented to Zachary and Elizabeth Fisher the need for temporary lodging facilities for families at major military medical centers. A year later the first two Fisher Houses opened at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda and Walter Reed Army Medical Center. In 2003 Ken succeeded his father as the Chairman. Since that time he has worked tirelessly to expand the Fisher House program. As a result in the increase in demand due to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the number of Fisher Houses during his time as Chairman has doubled, from just over 30 in 2003 to 60 today, with construction beginning soon on the latest one at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. These home away from homes are incredibly important for the wellbeing of so many of our ill Wounded Warriors and their families as they go through the difficult healing process. Each year approximately 8,500 families will find lodging at one of the Fisher Houses. Ken is a tremendous leader who works tirelessly on behalf of our military communities and who always thinks first about our Soldiers and their families. Ken thank you very much for everything that you have done.
Kathleen Gagg, joined by her husband Michael. Kathleen has been a passionate supporter of our military, Wounded Warriors, Veterans and their families. Kathleen founded the Camp Better America, a non-profit that focuses on the re-connection process for military families with their service member as they return from combat. While staying at many different locations, these families have many different opportunities to attend events focused on the healing process, specifically they are able to access experts for mental, financial and emotional and physical wellbeing which helps them build resiliency. Kathleen also serves as Executive Director for Got Your Back, which provides families of the Fallen with individual comfort, guidance and assistance through this difficult time in their lives. Recently Got Your Back partnered with the Miss America Organization to execute the 4th Annual Project Gratitude, offering all expense paid trip for 25 widows and their daughters to the Miss America Pageant. Kathleen is a shining example of the difference one determined individual has made in the support of our military and their families. Kathleen, thank you so much for what you have done.
Next is Debbie Tymon, Debbie has been with the New York Yankees for 27 seasons as the Sr. Vice President of Marketing, New York Yankees. The Yankees, through Debbie's efforts have dedicated themselves to supporting the men and women of our military, their families, our wounded warriors and veterans. Debbie began organizing various Military Appreciation Days in Yankee Stadium all the way back to 1995. These have included honoring all military services include Tuskegee Airmen and Medal of Honor Recipients just to name a very few. Since 2001 Debbie has organized the mailing of tens of thousands of free Yankee merchandise to service members deployed around the world. The Yankees partner with the USO to send over 5,000 gift bags for service members during the holidays. She has helped send Yankee players members to the visit the Troops, both in Iraq and Afghanistan. Finally, Debbie has been the driving force in our partnership between the Yankees and the Wounded Warriors Foundation since it's inception in 2003. In addition to providing a team member to serve as a spokes person for the organization, Debbie had worked with the Foundation to bring wounded warriors and their families to every Yankee home game this season. Debbie's personal efforts to ensure constant public honor and recognition of our military members, Wounded Warriors, and Veterans, helps remind our Country of their tremendous sacrifice. Debbie, thank you for all you have done.
Gary Sinise, and I have to say this, forever etched in our memory as Lt. Dan. Gary spent the last 12 years providing service through entertainment to our military service members, but he does much more than that. For our Wounded Warriors and families, Gary and the Lt. Dan Band have traveled nearly 200 locations around the world including Iraq and Afghanistan to perform for the troops and families to boost their morale. Additionally they perform at charities whose proceeds go to support Veterans and veteran's issues. In 2010 Gary formed the Gary Sinise Foundation to serve our nation by honoring our defenders, Veterans, first responders, their families and those in need. In 2011 the Foundation partnered with the Tunnel 2 Towers Foundation to create the Building for America's Bravest. The programs broke ground and completed the construction of 25 smart homes for our most severely Wounded Warriors. Finally the Foundation has done work with the Relief & Resiliency Outreach to help military and first responders families to recover from trauma and loss. Gary Sinise is unselfish with his time and efforts resulting in a tremendously positive impact to all of our Soldiers, to their family members and their children. Gary, thank you so much.
Ryan Blanck, joined by his wife, Christian. In 2008 Ryan left a lucrative private orthopedic and prosthetic practice to join the Center for the Intrepid at the San Antonio Military Medical Center. Ryan hoped to help severely Wounded Warriors by thinking outside of the box for their care. The result was the development of the Intrepid Dynamic Exoskeletal Orthosis, shortly known as the IDEO". The IDEO" works by offloading the burden on the damaged limb to allow the patient to use the limb but without pain. Since 2009, 46 service members to be fitted with the IDEO" allowing 43 of them to remain on active duty, and 12 able to deploy back to theatre. One Soldier said it was because of IDEO" that I could run, jump, and play my favorite sport, but most of all, I kept my job as a Combat Engineer. Experts in the Orthopedic field have stated that the IDEO" may be the most significant orthopedic development in the last decade, changing forever, the way lower extremities injuries are treated. IDEO" is under provisional patent and Ryan has waived all rights, foregoing what could be a significant personal financial gain. Ryan is incredibly dedicated to his patients, giving each of them his personal cell phone number with instructions to call anytime. Ryan's commitment and dedication changed the lives of many Wounded Warriors. His work has prevented the necessity to amputate in many cases and allowed Soldiers to perform activities that they felt were once impossible. Over the last 12 years, I have been overwhelmed and appreciative of the generosity of so many Americans waiting to come home to come forward and assist our Soldiers and wounded warriors and families. Ryan, thank you for everything that you have done.
These individuals are all examples of those who have gone above and beyond the call of duty to help their fellow man, to make a true difference in this country, to make a true difference specifically for our Soldiers and their families. We are indebted to each and every one of you, and I appreciate so much what you have done. The strength of our Nation is our Army; the strength of our Army is our Soldiers; the strength of our Soldiers is our families; and that is what makes us Army Strong. I want to thank each of you for being here today. Thank you very much.