Medical Monday: Taking Care of Our Patriots

This post was written by Admiral Jonathan Greenert, Vice Chief of Naval Operations

Admiral Jonathan Greenert answers questions from Sailors in Japan.

For the last two years it’s been a pleasure to be a part of the mission to help improve the care and treatment of our Wounded, Ill, and Injured Warriors. This effort has included visiting treatment and support facilities throughout the country, meeting with Wounded Warriors and their Families to understand what can be done to help, and working side by side with our Navy medical and personnel professionals to ensure the correct programs and benefits are in place.

Meeting these amazing folks at National Naval Medical Center, Bethesda, Navy Medical Center, Balboa, Tripler Army Hospital, Hawaii and Brooke Army Medical Center, San Antonio you can’t help but be inspired. I remember a sign on the door of a Wounded Warrior at Bethesda warning visitors that “I have no time for pity, sympathy or condolences; I am busy recovering and looking ahead returning to duty” (I paraphrase). My first visit to the prosthesis center at Balboa was like visiting an extensive bicycle/triathalon center. The atmosphere was upbeat with a bevy of activity, predominantly centered around sports – running, bicycling, swimming and rock climbing. Soldiers, Sailors and Marines spoke to me about recent accomplishments, and what milestone was next in their recovery. Doctors and health care providers nodded sagely – agreeing. Several years ago Doctors might be shaking their heads, wondering how and when theses Wounded Warriors would admit and come to grips with their “handicaps”. All this has become possible due to the collective and collaborative efforts of a world class medical system, the generosity and passion of numerous benevolent associations and the awesome spirit of our Wounded Warriors. For every story of a combat injury recovery, there are also stories of recovering from training injuries, traffic accidents and even cancers. As LTC Booker King at Brooke Army Medical Center told me recently, “we are accomplishing now in 3 months what took 5 times as long only a few years ago, and was unthinkable 10 years ago. It is one of the few bright spots from a decade of combat.” Because of my travels and interactions, I have come to see Wounded Warrior care in the form of a triangle:

• At the top of this triangle is the world class health care provided by the many military and civilian professionals at DoD hospitals and treatment centers like the National Intrepid Center of Excellence (NICoE) onboard Naval Support Activity Bethesda-which will celebrate its one year anniversary this week. NICoE is dedicated to the diagnosis, treatment and research of traumatic brain injury (TBI) and other psychological health conditions among service members, veterans and their families.

• At the second leg of our triangle are DoD facilitators like Navy Safe Harbor which coordinates the non-medical care of Wounded, Ill, and Injured Sailors, Coast Guardsmen, and their families. Their proactive leadership provides a lifetime of individually tailored assistance designed to optimize the success of recovery, rehabilitation, and reintegration activities.

• Finally, the third leg of the triangle is anchored by the many charitable services that are offered by benevolent organizations, private donors and veteran affinity groups nationwide. Their contributions to our Warriors and their families in their time of need recognizes the special sacrifices our service men and women in uniform have made by addressing a humanitarian need beyond that provided by the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs.

Why raise this now?
By the end of this summer we will complete the final stages of the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) mandated changes to the healthcare facilities in the National Capital Region. The BRAC construction projects at Bethesda and Fort Belvoir will provide nearly three million square-feet of new world class clinical and administrative space, cutting-edge technology, and Americans with Disability Act compliant lodging to support the rehabilitation of Wounded, Ill and Injured Service members. Throughout this labor intensive process we have worked closely with the medical community and our sister services to ensure that the triangle of care that we are committed to providing our Wounded, Ill, and Injured will continue to operate uninterrupted. This integration brings together recent combat medical experiences, innovative research and technology and best practices in evidence based patient care. The facilities at Walter Reed-Bethesda and Fort Belvoir will have state of the art facilities to provide Warriors with the very best of inpatient and outpatient care to help them heal in mind, body and spirit.

As with any major move or adjustment, there is always anxiety or concern associated with change. Rest assured no Wounded Warrior or their Family will be overlooked during the integration of these facilities. Caring for our Wounded Warriors is a long-term commitment, a covenant that will last well beyond our operations in Iraq or Afghanistan. Our military members and their Families deserve nothing less than our best effort.