I had a fantastic experience last week at the AW2 Symposium in Orlando. I stayed busy listening and getting to know people and their personal stories in a lot of different settings. Thursday I lunched with our wounded warriors. I also took some time along with a few members of my staff and Ms. Deborah Amdur, to visit with some Soldiers and staff at the James A. Haley VA Hospital in Tampa.
Ms. Amdur is Chief Consultant, Care Management and Social Work Service, Patient Care Services, Department of Veterans Affairs. For those of you who don’t know her–she was very instrumental in rolling out enhanced services to include a monetary stipend, health insurance, expanded training, and other support services to a whole new category of people serving our Nation—Family caregivers of Veterans. I can truly say that she was the perfect guest to have at the AW2 symposium, and that her passion and enthusiasm for our Veterans, their Families, and caregivers is contagious.
I got good feedback during my lunch with the wounded warriors. I heard some very personal stories and believe me they weren’t shy about telling me what we’re getting right and where we need to make improvements. That was great—I love when Soldiers talk to me uncensored and unfiltered. That’s how I get a true sense of where we are and where we need to go. By the way, it’s time for a shout out to retired SGT Joshua Cope, my new friend who got a gator with a crossbow. I met SGT Cope during the luncheon.
My day ended with the visit to James Haley. I can’t say enough about the great work by the leaders and staff at the VA hospital in Tampa which is also one of the VA’s five polytrauma centers. Polytrauma care is for Veterans and returning Servicemembers with injuries to more than one physical region or organ system, one of which may be life threatening, and which results in physical, cognitive, psychological, or psychosocial impairments and functional disability. Soldiers who are treated here usually have spinal cord or severe brain injuries.
I was impressed to see first-hand the care they provide our Soldiers and Veterans. It’s clear they are caring, competent professionals to their core. I met some great Americans who had recently been injured in combat and who are getting treatment and healing at James Haley. I also had the privilege of meeting with some of their Family members. I know that I speak for all the people in my party when I say this visit was humbling, uplifting, and inspiring.
I want to publicly recognize Dr. Steven Scott, Chief, Physical Medicine & Rehabilitative Services, and his team—they graciously took time to introduce us to patients, gave us a tour of their hospital, and shared with us the incredible ways they take care of our wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers and their Families. The public affairs officer, Ms. Carolyn Clark, did a great job helping us coordinate the visit and providing additional information after we returned to DC.
Finally, my hat is off to each wounded Soldier I met. Thank you all for allowing me and my staff to visit with you, hear your stories and express how grateful we are for your service and sacrifice. You all set the standard for resilience and perseverance.
To CPL Jeremy D. Voels, Bravo Company, 101st Airborne Division, and his battle buddy in the bed next to him—I salute you. Guys, stay in the fight. You are exceptional Soldiers who inspire and motivate me to get up each morning and work hard for our wounded, ill, and injured men and women in uniform. Thank you for your service.
I’ll wrap this up by saying I’m sure it is obvious it was an exciting week, a long week, and a rewarding week for all of us who had the privilege of being a part of this year’s AW2 symposium. This AW2 symposium was not about individuals. It was about doing something for the greater good and being a part of something bigger than ourselves. Everyone who participated worked as a team and worked to improve warrior care.
Kudos to COL Gadson, LTC Debra Cisney and everyone who helped to make this Symposium a resounding success. The out brief was very well done and it was obvious the delegates were up to the tasks and challenges of the week. Stay tuned—I’ll be able very soon to share with you the top five issues that we’re passing on to the Army Family Action Program for consideration.