Wright Visits, Honors Wounded Warriors in San Antonio
By Maria Gallegos
Brooke Army Medical Center
JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas, July 19, 2013 Acting Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Jessica L. (Garfola) Wright honored two soldiers who’d earned the Purple Heart medal and visited with other wounded warriors, families and staff at Brooke Army Medical Center here July 17.
From left: Army Command Sgt. Maj. Marshall Huffman, Southern Regional Medical Command; SRMC Commander Army Maj. Gen. Jimmie Keenan; Army Sgt. Anthony Ayers; Army Spc. Joseph Contreras; and Acting Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Jessica L. (Garfola) Wright, pose after the Purple Heart ceremony held at the Warrior and Family Support Center near Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, July 17, 2013. Wright presented the soldiers their medals at the ceremony. U.S. Army photo by by Rebekah Almquist
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Wright, who yesterday was nominated by President Barack Obama to become the permanent undersecretary for personnel and readiness, presented Army Sgt. Anthony Ayers and Army Spc. Joseph Contreras with their Purple Heart medals and certificates, while Army Maj. Gen. Jimmie Keenan, commander of Southern Regional Medical Command, was the host for the ceremony.
Wright, a retired military veteran with 35 years of service and the mother of a deployed soldier, voiced her admiration for the Purple Heart warriors at the ceremony.
“It’s clearly an honor to be here. I am humbled because I am a former soldier and a mom of a soldier … I am humbled to be here in your presence. Thank you very much for everything you have done,” Wright said.
“The fact that you have given your time and energy and yourself to preserve this intangible gift of freedom that we in the United States enjoy every day -- thank you very much for that,” she added.
Ayers, an infantryman, was conducting a combined dismounted patrol in Afghanistan on May 14 when he was struck by an improvised explosive device. Serving as a tank crewman, Contreras was conducting a mounted patrol in Afghanistan when his vehicle was struck by an IED on Aug. 4, 2011.
Contreras dedicated his Purple Heart medal to his grandfather, who was a World War II veteran.
“I know he would be proud of me right now if he was here,” Contreras said.
Wright saluted all service members who’ve earned the Purple Heart.
“We owe them the honor, we owe them the dedication and the respect -- not just today but every day of their lives,” she said.
Wright said she understands the apprehension that family members feel when a loved one is deployed. But, she said, the U.S. military provides the best medical care, equipment and technology in the world to support its service members.
“As a soldier, I have gone over [to Afghanistan] myself and sent a lot of people over there,” Wright told the reporter. “But as a mom, your heart goes -- and so my son is there and there’s not a moment in the day that I‘m not thinking about him and his safety.”
Following the ceremony, Wright visited with other wounded warriors, their families and staff at the Warrior Transition Battalion, the Center for the Intrepid, Fisher House, the Burn Center and the Emergency Department at San Antonio Military Medical Center. She thanked the warriors, families and staff for their dedication and offered encouragement and gratitude for their service to the nation.
"We couldn't do it without these people who give their time and energy. All of you are truly a gift from God," Wright said.
Wright is the deputy senior policy advisor to the secretary of defense on recruitment, career development and pay and benefits for 1.4 million active duty military personnel, 1.3 million Guard and Reserve personnel, 680,000 Department of Defense civilians, and she is responsible for overseeing the overall state of military readiness.