England Hails Wounded Marines, Outpatient Facility at Bethesda
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
NATIONAL NAVAL MEDICAL CENTER, Bethesda, Md., Apr. 2, 2008 Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon R. England saluted a group of wounded Marine combat veterans and the medical care they receive during a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a newly-renovated outpatient housing facility held here today.
From left to right: Maryland Lt. Governor Anthony G. Brown; Navy Rear Adm. Richard R. Jeffries, commander of the Bethesda medical center and chief of Navy medicine for the National Capital Area region; Marine Lance Cpl. Michael S. Stilson; Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon R. England; and Navy Vice Adm. Adam M. Robinson Jr., chief of the Navy Medical Corps, cut a ribbon with a large pair of ceremonial scissors to mark the official reopening of renovated Mercy Hall on the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., April 2, 2008. Defense Department photo by Gerry J. Gilmore
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
England said he shares Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates’ concern that it is paramount that injured troops receive the best available medical care.
“‘After the war itself,’” England said, quoting Gates, “‘fixing the problems associated with care for our wounded must be, and is, our highest priority.’”
Noteworthy improvements provided through the recently completed $4.3-million renovation project at Mercy Hall “reflect that obligation,” England pointed out.
The deputy secretary welcomed a group of injured Marines that attended the ceremony and cited them and Bethesda’s medical and administrative staff for their service to the nation. “I thank all of you for your selfless sacrifice,” he said.
England was accompanied at the ceremony by Maryland Lt. Governor Anthony G. Brown, an officer in the Army reserve and Iraq veteran, Navy Vice Adm. Adam M. Robinson Jr., chief of the Navy Medical Corps, and Navy Rear Adm. Richard R. Jeffries, commander of the Bethesda medical center and chief of Navy medicine for the National Capital Area region.
Later, England and the other senior leaders cut a ribbon with a large pair of ceremonial scissors to mark the official reopening of renovated Mercy Hall, a three-story structure built in 1968. Today, Mercy Hall houses wounded warriors.
The renovations included an interior and exterior freshening-up, as well construction work to bring the building into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and other federal standards.
About 47 outpatients, mostly Marines, currently live at Mercy Hall, said Marine Capt. Milinda J. Benitez, the administrative liaison officer for wounded Marines in the National Capitol Area, which includes Marines treated at Bethesda and Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. Benitez and her staff provide administrative, non-clinical, assistance to about 130 Marines in the Washington area, she said.
Helping injured Marines continue on with their lives is “our number-one priority,” said Benitez, an Iraq veteran who hails from Union City, N.J.
The injured Marines and their families “are treated with the utmost respect,” she added. “We give them the best service that we can.”
Marine Cpl. John T. Phillips, one of the outpatients at Mercy Hall, praised Benitez’s efforts, noting she “does her best to take care of us.”
Phillips also appreciates the accouterments available at newly-renovated Mercy Hall. The renovations included new bedding with refreshed living quarters and lavatories, washers and dryers, installation of cable television and wireless computer service, and more.
“This is absolutely fabulous. It’s comfortable; there’s free internet, cable – what more can you ask for?” he said.
Phillips also saluted Bethesda’s medical staff, noting that “the level of care here is absolutely outstanding.”
“In my opinion, there is no better place to be if you’re healing-up from anything,” Phillips continued. “The nurses and the doctors are all great … they’re pioneering new techniques almost on a weekly basis.”
Phillips, who hails from Wasilla, Alaska, recalled when he was wounded in Iraq by a detonating roadside bomb during duty in Anbar province in November 2006. The Marine was riding in a truck when the bomb went off, he said.
“As were driving down the road I heard my vehicle leader say, ‘Oh, crap!’ and the world went black,” Phillips said. “When I came to, there was smoke and dust all over the truck.”
No one else was injured in the explosion, Phillips recalled. The blast shattered his lower right leg and broke his lower right arm in two places, he said.
At Bethesda for a year-and-a-half now, Phillips observed it has taken some time for his injured leg to heal. “The bone takes awhile to re-grow,” he explained.
Phillips credits his survival and recovery to his belief in a higher power and a positive attitude. He plans to depart the Corps and become a pilot for the Alaskan forestry service.
Marines should not wonder about the type of medical care they’ll receive if they are injured during overseas service, Phillips pointed out.
“They’ll get the absolutely best care that possibly can be given to them; the doctors and nurses here, like I said, are the best,” he said.
“They’re going to do everything they can to make sure that you are okay,” Phillips concluded.