Visit to ‘new Walter Reed’ highlights tenacity of wounded warriors, support still required

By John R. Campbell, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for the Office of Wounded Warrior Care and Transition Policy

Earlier this month, I had the distinct honor of visiting the “new Walter Reed,” the National Military Medical Center in Bethesda. I have been there many, many times, but this was my first trip since the change of command to the new hospital commander, Rear Admiral Alton Stocks in late September. It is always such a humbling experience to meet our recovering troops, their families, and those caring for them, and this trip was no exception.


Admiral Stocks and I spoke at length about the progress that has been made at the facility over the last few years, and his passion for the new command is contagious. We also spoke about programs that my office is rolling out for those receiving care at Walter Reed, including a revitalized Transition Assistance Program, an ever-expanding Operation Warfighter Program, and our new Education and Employment Initiative (E2I), which is designed to get recovering Service members on their way to a new career long before they leave active duty.

As usual, the majority of my visit was spent on the wards and in the Warrior Transition Units with the Service members and their families. Their tenacity and perseverance in spite of such extraordinary challenges is incredible. It is such a privilege to be able to work for these men and women day in and day out, and these visits give me great insight as to how we can all help them heal and get on with their lives in positive, productive ways.

I spent some time with a young Airman named Tech Sergeant Joseph Deslauriers, who is from Fort Walton Beach, FL and assigned to the 1st Special Operations Civil Engineering Squadron in Hulbert Field, FL. He was wounded in Afghanistan on September 23rdand is now recovering here along with his wife, Lisa and his parents. Among many other distinctions that TSgt Deslauriers holds, he is also the first triple amputee from the Air Force, something he is quite proud of and a fact he readily volunteered. Despite his catastrophic injuries, his upbeat attitude and warm smile really lit up the room, and the love of his family was very moving.

With the holiday season coming up, and our troops coming home from Iraq, this winter is the perfect opportunity for all of us to do what we can to help our wounded, ill, and injured Service members. Numerous organizations send gifts and cards and sponsor events, and I encourage you to participate if you can.

The best gift you can give, however, is to help your employer hire one of these amazing men and women to be on your team. No matter what industry you work in, these warriors can improve your bottom line and your organization’s culture. Enhancing someone’s professional opportunities after a traumatic event is one of the surest ways to recovery. I promise that you will be glad you did, and our Nation will thank you, too.