JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas (Feb. 1, 2021) -- A group of Soldiers from Brooke Army Medical Center recently honored some of their fallen colleagues by holding a pre-dawn 2 mile memorial road march on Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston.
The BAMC Psychology and Social Work interns and residents partnered with their counterparts from Desmond T. Doss Health Clinic, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, to honor 13 Soldiers who were killed in action during wartime operations.
During the event, the Soldiers marched along the parade field, stopping at points along the way to read aloud the stories of the fallen service members.
Army Lt. Col. David Cabrera, 41, of Abilene, Texas, and Staff Sgt. Christopher Newman, 26, of Shelby, North Carolina, died Oct. 29, 2011, after a detonation of a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device. They were traveling in the same vehicle when they were hit. They also honored Sgt. 1st Class Will Lindsay, Pfc. Jesse Buryj; Staff Sgt. Louis Cardin, Spc. Thomas Doerflinger, Staff Sgt. Gregory Frampton, Sgt. 1st Class Javier Gutierrez, Pfc. Lavena Johnson, Spc. Morganne McBeth, Sgt. Cameron Meddock, Capt. Jennifer Moreno and Cpl. Jeffrey Williams.
Cabrera, a clinical social worker assigned to Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Bethesda, Maryland, is believed to be the first social work officer killed in action. Newman was a behavioral health technician assigned to Tripler Army Medical Center, Hawaii.
Army Maj. Raymond Beckman, BAMC Psychology Internship program director, received an email from a friend and former colleague who happened to mention the event which had taken place at Schofield Barracks for the past nine years. He reached out to find out more about the event and worked with members of BAMC’s Social Work Internship Program to plan a march here.
“It struck me that they had done this,” Beckman said. “One of the things I value in teaching the interns and residents here is to appreciate the culture they have joined. In the military, some of the people who you know and love can get deployed and get injured or killed.”
Beckman had previously worked with Newman before he was killed, so he felt a personal connection.
“What better way to join in solidarity and experience than to honor our fallen,” he said. “Some of who I have actually met and worked with. It meant something to me, but also as a way to teach our students.”
He said he felt the march was cathartic for those who participated.
“This is what we do in the treatment of trauma,” Beckman said. “We try to help people stop avoiding the things that hurt them the most, to confront and work through them. This was the literal acting out of that. It was actual exposure therapy for some.
“In behavioral health we talk about provider resiliency and preventing burnout, but we don’t spend a lot of time really honoring the fact that we put ourselves through an awful lot of trauma in our treatment and support of Soldiers who go through trauma,” he added. “I felt it was important to take a moment to acknowledge the fact that in behavioral health we are actually in some harm’s way and we should honor the sacrifices of those who aren’t here with us to do the honoring.”
Army Capt. Jacob Barack, clinical psychology intern, was impressed by Cabrera’s dedication to his profession and the fact that Cabrera volunteered for deployment so he could help Soldiers in need of behavioral health support downrange.
“Col. Cabrera’s story was driven by value-driven action,” Barack said. “He was working removed from direct action for quite a while and he asked to be put in a forward position downrange.”
In addition to the march, the team of behavioral health personnel from BAMC wrote letters of condolence to the families of the fallen Soldiers who were honored.
“We are not just psychologists; we are officers,” Barack said. “This is connected to something larger and it’s about that values-driven action. That’s also at the center of what we try to teach our patients as well. How do we find what matters to us and act on it. You can’t really teach it if you don’t do it.”