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Observing the first day of Lent, Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio, Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA, conducted Ash Wednesday services for patients, families, staff and visitors at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC) on Feb. 22.

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the 40-day liturgical period of prayer and fasting symbolizing the 40 days Jesus spent fasting in the desert. The name Ash Wednesday comes from the practice of placing ashes on the foreheads of people to represent mourning and repentance to God. The celebration of Ash Wednesday and the custom of Lent is based upon multiple verses throughout the Bible.

Broglio, the head of the U.S. Archdiocese for Military Services (AMS) since January 2008, conducted Ash Wednesday services in patients' rooms and in Building 1's Memorial Auditorium at WRNMMC. This was his fifth visit here since becoming the Archbishop of Military Services, USA, and he said coming to WRNMMC is an expression of his pastoral care for the faithful assigned to [his] pastoral responsibility.

"It is also fulfilling that precept that Jesus Christ gave us to visit the sick," he added. "It's a way of meeting him too, because he is himself, with those who are in need."

The Archdiocese for the Military Services was created by Pope John Paul II to provide the full range of pastoral ministries and spiritual services to those in the U. S. military at more than 220 installations in 29 countries, patients in 153 Veterans Affairs medical centers, and federal employees serving outside the boundaries of the United States in 134 countries. As the Archbishop of Military Services, USA, Brogolio is based in Washington, D.C., but travels the world to ensure the spiritual well-being of more than 1.5 million military personnel and their families, according to the AMS website.

"It's a true honor and privilege for us to have [Broglio] here, and for me to have the opportunity to welcome [him here] on behalf of [WRNMMC Commander] Rear Adm. Alton L. Stocks," said Navy Capt. David Bitonti, assistant to the WRNMMC commander.

Army Lt. Col. Kim Norwood, assistant department chief of Pastoral Care at WRNMMC, agreed that it's an honor and privilege for Broglio to come to WRNMMC.

"It shows these guys who are on the battlefield that they're not forgotten," Norwood added. "That the people who represent their faith appreciate what they do and appreciate the sacrifices that they've made. [He's] here to honor them, and to support them in their faith, but to honor them also in the service they bring this nation."

Army Spc. Rex Tharp said he thought the archbishop's visit was "great."

"I thought it was an honor," Tharp said. "I really appreciated him coming and visiting, not just me, but everyone here."

Tharp, who lost his right leg in an improvised explosive device (IED) blast five weeks ago in Afghanistan, said the archbishop's visit lifted his spirits.

For more information concerning Pastoral Care services at WRNMMC, Bethesda call 301-295-1510.