By Chuck Roberts, Landstuhl Regional Medical Center Public AffairsNovember 15, 2010
LANDSTUHL REGIONAL MEDICAL CENTER, Germany - On a day set aside to signify the armistice of World War I and to honor veterans of the armed forces, it seemed apropos that First Lady Michelle Obama spent the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month with Wounded Warriors, their families and staff at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center.
Among them was Private Eric Griego, reunited with his mother, Brenda, father, Peter, and sister, Ariana, after being medically evacuated to LRMC from Afghanistan where he sustained a near-fatal gunshot wound. The family's spirits were already lifted by Eric's recovery, but Mrs. Griego said the visit was yet another positive for the family.
"It's Veterans Day, so I think it's been really neat that she took the time to come here. We were really surprised and impressed how personable she is. She came in, and the first thing she did was extend her hand and then just hugged me. You could tell that she's a mom, and that she really wanted to be here and that it wasn't something that she felt that she had to do. You could tell that she really cared."
Although her son Eric was feeling tired before the visit, Mrs. Griego said he "perked up" when the First Lady arrived and presented him with a commander's coin from her husband.
"That was pretty neat," said Mrs. Griego. Afterward, she said the First Lady leaned over his bed and hugged him during a photo by the White House photographer, which drew a big smile from her son. "He appreciates it, I'm sure. It made him feel important, like people care. Everybody in this hospital is so amazing, so I know that he feels like people care, but I think this kind of made him feel special, and that's what he needed, to feel special."
It was also a special visit for 19-year-old Larry Bridges, a lance corporal being treated at LRMC for a gunshot wound to his leg that occurred during a firefight in Afghanistan.
"It was pretty sweet. I never met anyone that famous before," said Bridges, a native of Morristown, Tenn. The First Lady also helped the young Marine jump start his commander's coin collection by making the first coin of his career the distinctive oval medallion from the commander-in-chief, as well as giving him a box of candy distinguished by the White House seal.
Across the hallway in another hospital bed was Army Staff Sgt. Tamara Soto, a chemical specialist being treated for an injury that occurred while deployed to Iraq. When asked about her visit with the First Lady, Soto echoed the words of other staff and patients in describing Mrs. Obama as down to earth, approachable, caring and genuine.
"It was very uplifting and inspirational for her to take the time out to come and see everyone and to encourage us to keep on doing what we're doing," said Soto.
As part of a worldwide tour, LRMC was just one of the stops made by the First Lady within the Kaiserslautern Military Community on Veterans Day. Mrs. Obama also met with Bettina Wulff, the First Lady of Germany and wife of President Christian Wulff, during her Veterans Day visit, as well as sharing a steak dinner with Airmen at Ramstein Air Base.
LRMC is the largest American hospital outside of the United States and the only Level II Trauma Center overseas, and one of only two active trauma centers in the Department of Defense as verified by the American College of Surgeons. LRMC provides medical care for more than 245,000 U.S. military personnel and their families within U.S. European Command. LRMC is also the evacuation and treatment center for all injured U.S. servicemembers and civilians injured in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as servicemembers from 47 coalition forces.