Four members of the Red Cross Board of Governors visited Walter Reed Bethesda, Jan. 29.
Dr. Allan I. Goldberg and Afsaneh M. Beschloss toured the flagship of military medicine, along with two other board members, Richard C. Patton, and Dr. Laurence E. Paul.
“This is just an incredible visit,” Beschloss said. Chief Operating Officer for the American Red Cross in the National Capital Region Geoff DeLizzio agreed. “We had a really unique experience at Walter Reed. It’s great to be a part of it and to learn what more we can do,” he explained. “Everywhere you turn, you see the Red Cross vests. It’s great to see that trusted partnership.”
The trip provided the Red Cross leaders with a glimpse of the work that more than 450 adult and youth Red Cross volunteers perform at the country’s largest military treatment facility. The board members toured the Military Advanced Training Center, Tranquility Hall (Bldg. 62), the National Intrepid Center of Excellence, Ward 7-East, as well as a Fisher House.
“I’m beginning to understand the richness of this institution in terms of the science, the technology, the research, the huge hearts, the compassion and the partnership between all of you. The Red Cross and what you do to [help] people and their families, restore them, to make them whole again,” Goldberg said. “Thank you, everyone. It’s a wonderful partnership. We appreciate what each and every one of you do.”
The Red Cross assigns 150 mobile staff members in 55 offices between the states and overseas, according to Senior Vice President of Service to the Armed Forces for the American Red Cross Sherri L. Brown. Twenty of those are stateside military-installation based offices and 35 are overseas, she explained. “We usually have one or two paid staff in those offices and about 200 to 300 volunteers. That’s a normal office for us,” Brown said.
Army Chaplain (Col.) Robert L. Powers, department chief, Pastoral Care, told the board members about his opportunity to work with Red Cross representatives during deployments to Baghdad and Saudi Arabia.
“They are all over the world,” Powers said. “When I go into a relatively secure area where there are a bunch of troops, one of the things I do as a chaplain is I try to find out where the Red Cross office is, because they have a different perspective on what’s going on inside the compound and they can give me valuable information that helps me do my job.”
Service members injured on the battlefield receive a blanket from a Red Cross volunteer when they arrive at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany. “The first time many patients have any cognitive memory of anything is in Landstuhl when they’re stabilizing,” explained Bryan Lewis, chief of the Speech Department at WRNMMC. “I know at least four patients whose first memory is getting a blanket from a Red Cross volunteer,” explained the Air Force Reserves major who served at Landstuhl.
“Some of the volunteers are 24/7 workers too. We have volunteers here when we have guys return from overseas,” said Army Sgt. First Class Jonathan M. Grundy, who was blinded by a gunshot during his deployment to Iraq in 2007. The liaison for Soldiers of the 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, N.C., recovering at WRNMMC spoke of the weekend volunteers that come with Red Cross bags and meet with family members.
Grundy explained Red Cross volunteers, “who are there smiling,” when wounded warriors and families first arrive at WRNMMC help in their recoveries. Red Cross volunteers “being there for the family … it’s an ice breaker,” he said.
Dr. Inge Guen, a neuropsychologist doing postdoctoral studies at Harvard University, said she feels so privileged to work with Dr. David Williamson, medical director of the Inpatient traumatic brain injury program, and his medical team on 7-East as a volunteer with the Red Cross for the last five years. The team treats patients with traumatic brain injuries.
“My life belongs to our Wounded Warriors, it belongs to all service members,” she said. “The miracle that is happening in this hospital, it’s extraordinary. I believe God puts miracles in motion at Walter Reed.”