JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas (Nov. 24, 2021) -- A group of Soldiers from Brooke Army Medical Center honored some of their fallen colleagues by holding a pre-dawn 2-mile memorial road march on Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston Nov. 19.
BAMC psychology and social work interns, residents, and behavioral health faculty members participated in the 2nd Annual Memorial March honoring Army Lt. Col. David Cabrera, a clinical social worker, and Staff Sgt. Christopher Newman, a behavioral health technician, along with 20 other service members who died:
• Army Sgt. Travis Ronalle Williams
• Army 2nd Lt. Darryn D. Andrews
• Army Capt. Kenneth A. Bailey
• Army Brig. Gen. Terrence Hildner
• Army Spc. Keith Campbell
• Army Capt. Andrew F. Caswell
• Army Cpl. Jacob Fleischer
• Navy Petty Officer Galen Gene Dornbusch
• Army Pfc. Tyler H. Gorentz
• Army Sgt. Christopher J. Henze
• Army Sgt. Ryan J. Hopkins
• Army Staff Sgt. Ryan Knauss
• Army Capt. Darrell Lewis
• Army Sgt. Wesley J. Rice
• Army Sgt. Steve L. Talamantez
• Army Spc. Mark Wittig
• Air Force Senior Airman Tony Melchor
• Army Sgt. 1st Class David James Todd, Jr.
• Army Sgt. 1st Class Javier Jaguar Gutierrez
• Army Pfc. Oscar Sanchez
Cabrera is believed to be the first social work officer killed in action. Both Cabrera and Newman died Oct. 29, 2011, after a detonation of a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device.
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.
This year, they were joined by Kathryn Hopkins, a Gold Star spouse, who lost her husband, Army Sgt. Ryan Hopkins. She spoke to the group about her experience after her husband was injured and died.
“Ryan and I were a dual military couple,” Hopkins said. “We were fortunate to be together on a fifteen month deployment to the same (forward operating base) in the Green Zone. The day of the accident, I was able to assist with his wound care, and remain by his side.”
Hopkins said she remembers the sense of urgency among the nurses and doctors all along the MEDEVAC route.
“We arrived at BAMC in the morning, Ryan was ‘packaged’ and wrapped to a point where I could only see part of his face under his safety goggles,” Hopkins explained. “I was met by a liaison and a team of doctors that sat me at a conference table to discuss his care. He was burned full and partial thickness over 55 percent of his body from his thighs to his head.”
Sgt. Ryan Hopkins survived his golden hour in Baghdad, his stay in ICU, coma and multiple surgeries. He passed away a year and a half later, in January 2010, after a reconstructive surgery.
“I thought it would be a routine day following one of Ryan’s reconstructive surgeries, however I was awoken by a phone call that would forever change the path of my life,” she said. “In hindsight, it was the experiences of the military, deployment, my husband’s injury and death that shaped who I am today.”
“I am thankful to have met many caring individuals that have supported and helped me transition with and without my husband,” Hopkins concluded. “Thank you BAMC staff, Soldiers, and medical trainees for the willingness to put forth yourselves to help others, you may not realize your actions do make a difference. On behalf of Ryan and myself, we say thank you.”
Many of the psychology and social work interns expressed their gratitude after participating in the memorial march.
“This is an important reminder of our work here in the behavioral health department and what it means to serve and those who we are serving,” said Army Capt. Leanne Bishara, clinical psychology intern and official in charge for the event. “We just hope to continue the mission and we hope that this march continues every year.”
“I just really enjoy coming together with everybody and memorializing, remembering, honoring those who have served before us and those who have served with us,” said Army 1st Lt. Amy Hall, social work intern. “It’s always a great experience, and I always cry every single year, but it was really great and I love it.”
The memorial march began last year after 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 several years.
“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. What better way to join in solidarity and experience than to honor our fallen.”
Army 1st Lt. Jonathan Mills, social work intern, agrees.
“This event is a good opportunity for the people who have just directly commissioned in to understand what they are becoming a part of and to remind some of us saltier people why we do this and help us remember some of those we serve with,” Mills said.
Beckman says he feels the march is cathartic for those who participate.
“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,” Beckman said.
“This is something that’s important to me because it’s both personal and professional,” said Army Capt. Lisa Rodriguez, social work intern. “I have lost family members and it was important for me today to memorialize the legacy of my family and fallen Soldiers in a way that I know how to best. That’s through mental health and bringing awareness.”