By Cheryl RodewigFebruary 17, 2009
The Army Warrior Healthcare Covenant, signed Wednesday in Marshall Auditorium, Infantry Hall, reaffirms "our commitment to caring for our wounded Soldiers and their families," said MG Michael Barbero, Fort Benning commanding general.
"That is why we are here today," he said. "As we speak today, thousands of young Soldiers are patrolling the streets of Kandahar, Kabul, Baghdad and elsewhere in the world, and they need to know that if, God forbid, they should get hurt on the battlefield, they will not only receive first class care and assistance but they will receive it without red tape or bureaucracy."
Two Soldiers who have benefited from such care at the Warrior Transition Battalion stood behind Army leaders during the covenant signing as representatives of all wounded warriors. SPC Richard Lea was wounded when his vehicle was hit by a rocket propelled grenade in December 2007. SSG Kevin Duquette suffered traumatic brain injury when a mortar round exploded above his room. He was also hit by an IED while in a military vehicle and shot in the chest, the body armor saving his life.
Later diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, Duquette was reassigned to the WTB.
Duquette said the signing "makes official" what the unit has been doing all along.
"This is definitely above and beyond the other WTBs I've seen," he said. "We have the highest quality
cadre. They look out for you. Everything here is just more focused on the Soldiers to help them return to the Army or transition into the civilian world."
Each Soldier is supported by a care team, which includes a nurse case manager, primary care physician and squad leader. Someone from the team usually calls him during the day, Duquette said, just to check in and see how he's doing.
"It just shows the WTB's commitment to take care of the Soldiers that are here," he said.
Duquette and Lea took home a copy of the covenant to remind them of the promise made on their behalf. The covenant includes an emphasis on healing for mind, body, heart and spirit for warriors and their families who have made sacrifices in the name of freedom.
During the ceremony, LTC Sean Mulcahey, WTB commander, mentioned practical applications of the covenant, including increasing the number of personnel, offering marriage and family retreats, creating personalized "transition plans" for warriors specific to their goals and providing excellent return-to-duty training.
"Our organization has made tremendous progress in improving care and support of our warriors and families," he said. "We have new and renovated operating facilities, including the very best barracks on Fort Benning. We have significantly improved organization and procedures to streamline the transition process. We conduct family-oriented activities to ensure families are engaged in the transition process. ... These programs and services really do make a difference in the lives of our Soldiers and families."
Barbero said the post leadership is committed to listening to wounded warriors and their families to see that they receive the best care possible.
"We will guide them every step of the way from the moment they step foot on Fort Benning to the day they return to their unit or transition back to civilian life," he said. "Our wounded warriors deserve nothing less."