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Remarks at the Wounded Warrior Project Soldier Ride Congressional Reception

As Delivered by Deputy Secretary of Defense William J. Lynn, III, Dirksen Senate Office Building, Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Thank you very much, Chairwoman Buerkle. Thank you for your leadership on the House Veterans Affairs Committee supporting the issues of wounded warriors and for helping veterans overcome the challenges they face.  We very much appreciate all that you have been doing.

It is terrific to be in this room facing in this direction.  During congressional hearings I am normally facing the other direction, and with a less friendly audience. 

It is also terrific to be here with the wounded warriors who took part in a great ride this afternoon.  It is an honor to meet their families and stand with the supporters of the Wounded Warrior Project from the government, the private sector, and Congress.

I particularly want to extend my thanks to Steve Nardizzi and the other members of the Wounded Warrior Project who are doing such a terrific job helping our wounded warriors get back to what Steve called "the new normal."

I know you spent some of the afternoon with my boss, President Obama, kicking off the first ride.  President Obama is very focused on keeping faith with our veterans, whether through implementing the post-9/11 G.I. Bill, ensuring funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs, or hiring veterans in government and promoting them for jobs in the private sector. 

I also know that wounded warriors are a special focus of President Obama’s boss—that's Michelle Obama.  The First Lady started with Dr. Jill Biden the Joining Forces Initiative, an effort to make the nation aware of how they can support the military families behind you who have made so many sacrifices as well.

The Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs are jointly focused on the work of addressing the critical issues our veterans and our wounded warriors face.  I chair with Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs Scott Gould an oversight committee develops policy on those issues, whether it's addressing post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury, improving our Warrior Transition Units, implementing lifetime electronic health records, or easing the transition from Defense and Veterans Affairs.  We are trying to make the partnership between the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs completely seamless and transparent, to ensure a smooth transition as our troops leave the service and enter the VA’s care.

So on behalf of the Department of Defense, I want to congratulate all of you who made the ride today.  This is a great event and a terrific recognition of the achievements of wounded warriors as they get back to that new normal.

It is now my pleasure to introduce a wounded warrior who has won the battle to recover.  Glenn Kunkel, an Ohio native, joined the Marines at age 17.  He served in the infantry as a squad leader.  In April of 2005, he was seriously wounded by a mortar in Iraq.  He was medically discharged in 2008.  He went through the TRACK program that the Wounded Warrior Project sponsors, and he is now attending the University of Louisville in Kentucky.

Glenn has shown us how well this transition can go.  I would like you to listen to a few words from him, as he explains first hand the real value of the Wounded Warrior Project.

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