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Adm. Winnefeld's Remarks at the Angels of the Battlefield Gala

By Admiral James A. "Sandy" Winnefeld, Jr.

ADMIRAL JAMES A. WINNEFELD JR: Thank you Steve, for that entirely too generous introduction, and I would say, Mike and Mike thank you, and board members and I would list every category of person that's in the audience tonight a thank you but I know it's a school night and it would take too long to do that so I'm going to leave it alone. But I will say, that here we are at the Four Seasons and we're wondering what season it is.

But I can also tell you that it’s anytime—it's a great season to be able to join with this wonderful group to celebrate five extraordinary and courageous individuals and those whom they represent, all through our military. Five men and women who in their words, were just doing their jobs and because this profession that we love is a family business, I want to first thank all the family members here tonight who stand in support of all those we’ll formally recognize later in the program.

Thank you all very much for backing up the wonderful men and women [inaudible]

But let me start by recognizing those who have taken the lead over these many years of war in acknowledging those among our warriors who run toward the mayhem of combat in order to save lives.

So thank you to the Armed Services YMCA for so generously putting this event together for eight years, and to the many people behind the scenes who organized tonight’s gala, you know who you are; well done! Thank you.

The support that ASYMCA provides to the military ‘makes life easier’ for more than 500,000 service members and their families every single year and it's done by volunteers who dedicate countless hours unselfishly serving those who have volunteered to defend our great nation.

We also owe a debt of gratitude to so many other champions of our men and women in uniform, including the many generous corporate sponsors who are here tonight, who understand the price of freedom and who want to give back to those who have sacrificed so much to preserve it.

Nothing says you have to do this, and we know it, but we also thank you for it.

You’re making a huge difference for our men and women, thank you so very much.

And a special shout out to our emcee this evening, Kim Dozier, who has demonstrated her own courage in running to the sound of the guns in defense of the important principle of keeping the American people informed, thank you so much.

And now, the reason we’re gathered here tonight, we all know is to take the opportunity to thank a very, very special group of men and women, medics and corpsmen, whose courage, and skill and quick reactions have brought so many of our service members and civilians home to their families.

Corpsmen and combat medics hold a very, very special place in our military.

Indeed, it is fitting that tonight is the 61st anniversary of Navy Hospital Corpsman Francis Colton Hammond demonstrating extraordinary heroism while treating casualties under intense fire while serving with the First Marine Division in Korea, for which he was awarded the Medal of Honor.

Corpsmen and combat medics have been awarded 75 Medals of Honor for bravery in combat.

A corpsman helped raise the flag over Iwo Jima.

Fifteen were killed in the bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut.

Corpsmen and medics have performed unbelievably well in demanding conditions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Now, as you know, the colloquial form of address for a hospital corpsman or combat medic is "Doc", which is a hard-earned sign of respect.

Let me tell you, not just anyone can be “the Doc.” It takes a lot of dedicated training and hard work.

Corpsmen and medics and their battlefield capabilities have come a long way since the days of our first military hospitals and ambulance corps.

Injuries sustained in combat during the Revolutionary War resulted in about a 60-percent survival rate.

Survival rates for those wounded during the Korean and Vietnam Wars increased to about 75 percent, but that was only a 15-percent improvement over a 200-year span of time.

But the last 12-plus years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan have taught us to focus our efforts on the “platinum 10”, providing new kinds of medical care within the first 10 minutes of injury and, of course, beyond.

Today, if you’re wounded in combat, thanks to these wonderful men and women, there’s a 92-percent chance that you're going to survive, the highest number in the history of warfare.

Now thanks to remarkable advances in battlefield, post-battlefield medical care, in methods, technology, techniques of medical intervention, a great many more of the men and women who sacrifice so much for our nation are able to recover and rehabilitate, and will now be with us for decades to come.

We’re very grateful for this, but it’s the faces behind the care that our wounded warriors ultimately recognize as their lifesavers, the heroes of our heroes.

Most of us have seen the outcome of that kind of heroism firsthand, up at Walter Reed or Belvoir, down in San Antonio, or many other places. We’re inspired by so many who have lived to prove that ability can overcome disability.

It’s also inspiring to meet their moms and dads, and brothers and sisters, and sons and daughters and spouses and friends who stand by their side, they're personal caregivers, all heroes in their own right.

And I’m sure that if you were to ask these people who they credit with saving their life, or the life of their loved one, the answer would not surprise you, the first person who administered care, that “angel on the battlefield.”

Tonight, we celebrate five of those angels, some who were themselves wounded or injured, and all of whom did what they were trained to do instinctively and under extraordinary circumstances.

Taylor, Kristopher, Kevin, Michael, and Janet, you each join the 450 medical professionals who have been honored as battlefield angels before you, as well as an even greater number, as you know, of unsung heroes who risk their lives each and every day to provide life-saving medical treatment in such a dynamic battle space.

In placing the needs of your brothers and sisters in arms above your own, you have become their heroes and you are now our heroes.

You, and those you stand for, have more than met the demands of your profession, with courage and strength, and in the words of the Medic’s Creed, “you aided all those who were needful, treating friend, and foe and stranger alike.”

I’m honored and proud to have had the opportunity to serve alongside you.

So thank you to each and every one of you and those you represent so very much, and many thanks again to the Armed Services YMCA and our sponsors and hosts and entertainers tonight for making this special evening possible. God bless each and every one of you, especially those who sacrificed so much to keep our freedom free. Thank you.