JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas —
The Army Medical Department will soon mark its 242nd anniversary. The AMEDD has a proud history that dates back to July 27, 1775, when the Continental Congress authorized a Medical Department Service for an Army of 20,000 men.
Since that time, countless military, civilian and contractors have provided health care on and off the battlefield.
In the day to day rush of life, I sometimes forget how proud I am to be a part of Army Medicine. It took a mini-reunion with a warrior last month to remind me.
I had just walked into the post gym at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston when I ran into a friend breaking a sweat on a Jacob’s Ladder. We laughed and talked for a few minutes before I headed over to the elliptical machines.
As the music blared through my headphones, I fought back tears as I thought about how far this Soldier had come, and how just a few years ago, he thought he’d never talk or use his arm again.
Army Capt. John Arroyo had been severely wounded in the 2014 Fort Hood shooting. He’d just pulled up to brigade headquarters when he heard shots fired and stepped out of his car. The next shot Arroyo heard was the one that ripped through his throat and shoulder.
Spc. Ivan Lopez killed three Soldiers and wounded 16 that day before turning his gun on himself. Arroyo barely survived and was told his voice box and right arm were damaged beyond repair.
Yet, two months later he was talking again and after months of intense rehabilitation at the Center for the Intrepid, Brooke Army Medical Center’s rehabilitation facility, he regained the use of his right hand. He currently serves as the plans and training officer in charge of the Basic Officer Leader Course here and often speaks to groups – from inmates to students to fellow service members – on the importance of making the most of “second chances.”
Arroyo is just one of the many warriors and civilians who have made tremendous strides in their recovery here and at other military treatment facilities.
Because of Army Medicine, our injured, ill and wounded warriors have been able to achieve amazing feats of courage and strength in their recoveries. I’ve seen a quadruple amputee inspire others to achieve, a former burn patient win “Dancing with the Stars,” cancer patients receive a new lease on life, and warriors winning gold medals at competitions around the world.
I’ve also witnessed Army Medicine professionals’ enormous passion for helping others. Doctors trained at the finest civilian hospitals opting to stay in service and care for service members here and around the world rather than pursue higher salaries elsewhere, nurses and technicians working arduous shifts and long hours to deliver compassionate care, and support staff going the extra mile to ensure mission success.
I’ve served in the military and as a civilian around the world for 20 years, but I’m proudest of the past five years I’ve worked at Brooke Army Medical Center. I am honored to have seen our warriors persevere and succeed.
As Arroyo demonstrates, after 242 years, Army Medicine is still going strong. Take a moment to reflect on the countless contributions of AMEDD professionals. We are surrounded by examples of their dedication and devotion to patient care.