CBP Leaders Pay Wounded Warriors a Holiday Visit to Say 'Thanks'
Just the name-Walter Reed Army Medical Center-is rich with meaning. It is the hallowed ground where America's wounded warriors are welcomed home, cared for, and prepared for a return to service and a transition into the rest of their lives.
It was with that in mind that members of U.S. Customs and Border Protection leadership today traveled to meet with a number of wounded warriors who were at Walter Reed undertaking the challenge of recovery.
"The words 'thank you' are some of the most powerful in our language," said Deputy Commissioner David V. Aguilar, who led the CBP delegation. "An instance like this makes you wish there was something more powerful, more meaningful, more appropriate, but still we went to express our gratitude as an agency."
The delegation, which included Assistant Commissioner for Field Operations Thomas Winkowski, Border Patrol Deputy Chief Ron Vitiello, Air and Marine Deputy Assistant Commissioner William Oliver, Executive Director for Diversity and Civil Rights Franklin Jones, was greeted by the commanding officer of Walter Reed, Maj. Gen. Carla G. Hawley-Bowland.
Hawley-Bowland spoke to the delegation about the innovative-and in many cases, one-of-a-kind-technologies used to ensure that the medical center's patients find quick recovery, but also about the importance of renewing these warriors' spirit.
"When we work with these individuals who arrive at our door, we must figure out not only how to treat their wounds, but also to lift their spirits to really begin their recovery," she said.
The delegation met with a number of the patients, taking a few minutes to listen to their stories, as well as sharing the gratitude of CBP and its people, presenting them with challenge coins and other tokens of the agency's appreciation. The stories were humbling, and the patients were clearly happy to have someone to talk to, even for a few minutes, about their path to Walter Reed.
"This is a unique opportunity to give something back, and it's important that we're doing it," said Oliver.
Many of the patients had parents, wives and children there with them, providing support and encouragement. Members of the delegation were deeply impressed by their commitment to their warriors.
"The strength of those parents is amazing," said Winkowski. "Having the opportunity to thank them for raising these strong and dedicated individuals was a privilege in itself."
As one walks the halls of Walter Reed, the sense of energy and purpose among the staff is inescapable and reflects not only the military's commitment to those who serve but also the passion of the individuals who are there to serve them.
"There is no doubt in my mind that they are getting the absolute best our country has to offer," said Vitiello. "The dedication of the staff is unquestionable, and you could sense the obligation they felt to those men and to this hallowed ground."
In speaking with the patients, members of the delegation noted the significant number of veterans who join CBP after completing their military service.
"America continues to benefit from their service as they transition from the military uniform to the CBP uniform," said Aguilar. "The themes of service to country and sacrifice still ring true."
The most striking moments came when the warriors took time to thank those who came to visit them-an experience that was humbling to the CBP leaders.
"To think that these heroes would thank us is simply unimaginable," said Aguilar. "It is a shame that the rest of our nation cannot see the spirit of these young people. They make this country what it is, and reflect our national values to the core."
While this marked the first formal visit by CBP to the wounded warriors of Walter Reed, it will not be the last. Planning has begun to institute regular visits between CBP personnel and the center's patients.
- Jay Mayfield
CBP Office of Public Affairs
U.S. Customs and Border Protection is the unified border agency within the Department of Homeland Security charged with the management, control and protection of our nation's borders at and between the official ports of entry. CBP is charged with keeping terrorists and terrorist weapons out of the country while enforcing hundreds of U.S. laws.