JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO, Texas -- Brooke Army Medical Center hosted an unveiling ceremony on June 27 in the Medical Mall for a painting donated by former United Nations Ambassador Warren W. Tichenor.
"I'm very honored to be invited to be with you for this very memorable occasion," Tichenor said during his remarks. "Mario, and to everyone at BAMC, this is your day because today we're here to unveil a painting by Sgt. Lopez that will hang here at BAMC for all time."
Retired Army Sgt. Mario Lopez, a former BAMC patient, painted the stylized image of the American flag on canvas. Brig. Gen. George N. Appenzeller, BAMC's commanding general, also addressed the audience of staff and patients who had gathered for the ceremony.
"BAMC is truly a special place," he said. "We really pride ourselves on healing the whole human. And we do that from the reception of a trauma patient through our ICU, through our Burn Center, through behavioral health, all the way to rehabilitation at places like the Center for the Intrepid."
Lopez took time to speak with the audience about his time at BAMC after being injured in Afghanistan in 2008. The vehicle he was riding in hit an improvised explosive device. He sustained a head injury, lost his right arm, the fingers on his left hand, and was burned over 50 percent of his body. He had three surgeries in Germany, and was then flown to San Antonio to complete his rehabilitation at BAMC.
"Being here in this facility brings back so many memories -- some bad, but mostly good," Lopez said. "I'm alive. I'm alive because God wanted me here, but I'm also alive because of the exceptionalism of this country, the exceptionalism of this facility and the exceptionalism of the individuals who occupy this place. I'm standing here because of your training, your experience and your love."
Lopez thanked everyone who had assembled for the ceremony and said he hoped his painting will positively influence staff, patients, and family members who see it, and he hopes it reminds them all that life "really is worth living."
Tichenor, who served as the U.N. ambassador under President George W. Bush, read a letter from the former president to Lopez which congratulated him on the occasion of his painting's unveiling.
"The painting is a testament to your resilience and I am grateful that art helped you heal your wounds of war," read the letter from Bush. "I know your artwork will be a source of inspiration to those at BAMC for years to come."
The painting is displayed on the wall across from the Medal of Honor display in the Medical Mall.