BETHESDA Md. (NNS) -- Military leaders and senior officials from the Fisher Foundation and Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund gathered Thursday on the National Naval Medical Center's campus to break ground for the National Intrepid Center of Excellence.
The National Intrepid Center of Excellence is an advanced facility dedicated to research, diagnosis and treatment of military personnel and veterans suffering from traumatic brain injury and psychological health issues. The Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund is financing the construction of the center whose ground breaking took place just weeks before Base Realignment and Closure construction projects begin at Bethesda.
"The healing work that will be done at this one of a kind facility will be vitally important to the continuing care of our wounded warriors," said National Naval Medical Center Commander, Rear Adm. Richard Jeffries. "We are very fortunate to have the right and the privilege to take care of these great Americans."
"The National Intrepid Center of Excellence should send a message to military personnel overseas fighting for the freedom of others," said Arnold Fisher, honorary chairman of the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund. "We will always remember the sacrifices made by our brave, young heroes and their families, and we will continue to support our Soldiers by providing them with world-class support when they return."
Kenneth Fisher, chairman of the Fisher House Foundation, announced that his organization will build three Fisher Houses to compliment the Intrepid Center so families of military personnel can be close to their loved ones during their treatment at the center.
"Everyone here is aware of the signature wounds, as the result of our actions in Iraq and Afghanistan, sometimes it can be harder to treat the wounds we cannot see," Ken Fisher said. "A family's love is the best medicine of all."
"This center will have such great impact on the lives of our service members who have given so much for our country," said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Dr. James Peake. "Meeting the challenges of traumatic brain injury and other injuries in this newest generation of veterans is a critical success factor. This new center, in addition to the three new Fisher houses, will provide these great men and women with the care and rehabilitation they need and deserve."
Marine Gen. James Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the Intrepid Center will provide care for both active duty and retired military members suffering from traumatic brain injury and post traumatic stress disorder.
"The [Intrepid Center] is something the men and women in uniform deserve, not only from the current conflict, but from past conflicts," said Cartwright.
"We're all learning as a nation, not just in military medicine, on how the brain works," said Army Gen. Richard Cody, vice chief of staff. "We're eliminating the stigma and telling our Soldiers [traumatic brain injury and post traumatic stress] are wounds just like any other."
Army Spc. Freddy Meyers, who is undergoing treatment at Bethesda for wounds he sustained in Iraq, said the Intrepid Center is vital for the treatment of those suffering from injuries similar to his because it will "bring together a wealth of knowledge."
"Importing all the knowledge is important because every [traumatic brain injury] is different," Meyers said.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates said America has a responsibility to ensure its service members are taken care of should something happen to them. The Intrepid Center is a symbol of care and treatment in the process of recovery to both men and women in uniform, he said.
"When a young American steps forward on his own free will to serve, he or she does so [with] the expectation that they and their families will be properly taken care of should something happen to them on the battlefield," Gates said. "This superb new center will be a living reminder that America honors that contract and keeps faith with those [who] have sacrificed so much for all of us."
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