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Wounded Servicemembers Enjoy Picnic With a View

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

FORT MYER, Va., Oct. 2, 2006 – It seemed as if it was a typical Washington picnic: Cabinet secretaries, military generals and admirals and ambassadors were all present at the home of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, here yesterday.

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Marine Gen. Peter Pace greets wounded servicemembers and their families as they arrive at Fort Myer, Va., for a picnic in their honor, Oct. 1. Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and his wife Lynne hosted the event. Photo by Mamie Mae Burke

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But the real guests of honor were 150 wounded servicemembers and their families from the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., and Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington.

“This picnic is just to say ‘thank you’ for the sacrifices you have made,” Marine Gen. Peter Pace said to the visiting servicemembers. “It is also a way to say ‘thank you’ to your families for staying with you and supporting you and doing all that they are doing. They are sacrificing as much as you are for your nation.”

The Washington luminaries all joined Pace and his wife, Lynne, in making the servicemembers feel welcome.

Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez, Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Alphonzo Jackson, Joint Chiefs Vice Chairman Navy Adm. Edmund Giambastiani, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Schoomaker, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Mullen and representatives of the United Services Organization gathered to speak with the servicemembers and their families.

It was Army Cpl. Chris Strickland’s second visit to the chairman’s house. “I don’t really remember too much of the first trip,” he said. “I was still pretty heavily sedated the last time.”

Strickland looked out through his one good eye at the vista overlooking the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument and the Capitol and said, “That’s a million-dollar view.”

The young corporal – he turns 21 at the end of October – was a scout with the 1st Cavalry Regiment of the 1st Armored Division’s 1st Brigade in Ramadi when he was wounded in an improvised explosive device explosion. He was hit in the arm, head and both legs. He is able to walk with the assistance of a cane now. “I’m very lucky to be here,” he said. “Some of my friends haven’t been as lucky.”

“Events like this are so important to these men and women,” said a USO volunteer. “A good attitude is important to them as they recover. Parties like this help them realize that people love them, and this jazzes them up.”

“The most important people who are here today are those from Bethesda and Walter Reed,” Pace said. “We cannot thank you enough.”

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Gen. Peter Pace, USMC

Click photo for screen-resolution imageAttorney General Alberto Gonzalez, left, speaks with Army Cpl. Chris Strickland during an Oct. 1 picnic for wounded servicemembers at Fort Myer, Va., Sunday. Photo by Mamie Mae Burke  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageNavy Adm. Edmund Giambastiani, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, speaks to a wounded servicemember and his family during a picnic at Fort Myer, Va., Oct. 1. Photo by Mamie Mae Burke   
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