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Marine Barracks Holds Valentine Lunch for Wounded Warriors

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 17, 2008 – It was a Valentine’s Day lunch, and there was a lot of love in the air for wounded warriors at the Marine Barracks here yesterday.

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Retired U.S. Marine Gen. Peter Pace and his wife, Lynne, greet servicemembers and their families during a Valentine's Day luncheon at Marine Barracks, Washington, Feb. 16, 2008. The luncheon, hosted by the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and his wife and supported by the USO, honored wounded warriors and their families. Defense Dept. photo by U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. D. Myles Cullen

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Retired Marine Gen. Peter Pace and his wife, Lynne, continued a tradition they started during his service as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The Paces hosted picnics at their quarters for wounded warriors and their families, and hosted this at historic Crawford Hall – a beautifully restored section of the Marine Barracks founded in 1801. The Marine Band’s “Free Country Quartet” – down to a trio due to sickness – provided the entertainment.

“This is quite simply to say that we love you,” Pace told the warriors. “(This event) is in some small way a chance to tell you your fellow countrymen respect you and what you’ve done for all of us.”

Pace told the servicemembers and their families, “There are no rules: just relax and enjoy yourselves.”

And they did. More than 30 wounded personnel undergoing treatment at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., enjoyed a meal donated by Franco Nuchese, owner of Café Milano – an A-list Georgetown restaurant.

“I’m not sure what I just ate,” said Army Sgt. Brad Judd, a Utah National Guardsman undergoing treatment at Walter Reed. Told it was eggplant parmegian, he said, “Who’d have thought eggplant could taste so good?”

Vice President Richard B. Cheney’s daughters Mary and Elizabeth turned out to help serve and to speak with the servicemembers and their families, and the Marine Corps leadership turned out in force. Marine Commandant Gen. James T. Conway, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. James E. Cartwright, Assistant Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Magnus and Marine Lt. Gen. John F. Sattler, the Joint Staff’s strategy chief, and their ladies came to meet and mingle with the wounded servicemembers.

Enlisted aides from all services donated their time and expertise to the event. “We sent a e-mail out asking for volunteers, and everyone responded,” said Marine Gunnery Sgt. Patrick Modreski, an enlisted aide who works with the Cartwrights.

Three of the wounded warriors had one leg among them – and that one had just had an operation.

“I was doing well; I was up and walking, but had a setback. They had to do the operation,” said Marine Cpl. Chad Watson. “But that was it. I’ll be up and walking again in no time.” Watson’s goal is to walk down the aisle in August for his marriage to his fiancée, Jillian.

Family was a big part of the lunch, and children soon hit a sugar high with the candied hearts and chocolate that decorated each of the 17 tables. Three-year-old Kelsey Hennagin was a perpetual motion machine, running between the tables and charming everyone in sight. When she finally ran down, she sat in her father’s lap in his motorized wheelchair – he lost both legs to an improvised explosive device in June 2007. Marine Cpl. Ray Hennagin showed one and all a cell-phone picture of him standing on his new legs. “Just got fitted two days ago,” he said. “Looks pretty good, huh?”

“None of these young men or women see themselves as victims,” said Ambassador Lloyd Hand, who also attended. “They all want to get through recovery and move on.”

In fact, Hand told Marine 1st Lt. Andrew Kinnard, a severely wounded platoon leader who is working in DoD’s general counsel’s office, to give him a call after he gets his law degree.

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