Nov. 16, 2011
BETHESDA, Md. –
For close to 100 years, the United States of America has honored its military service men and women with the observance of Veteran’s Day annually on November 11.
The federal holiday represents a chance for Americans to reflect on the freedoms that define our status as U.S. citizens, and the lengths that the military goes in order to protect those freedoms.
In an effort to pay tribute to some of our nation’s finest heroes, members of the Monogram Club board of directors and staff spent this past Veteran’s Day visiting with a group of soldiers wounded in combat at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.
The trip was coordinated by Monogram Club board member Colonel Bryan Fenton (’87, student manager), a United States Army special forces officer who has served in various locations in the United States and overseas, participating in Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and numerous other military operations.
Joined by Sergeant Chris Rodriguez, Fenton accompanied the Monogram group to the hospital, including president Dick Nussbaum (’74, ’77, baseball), first vice president Haley Scott DeMaria (’95, swimming), second vice president Kevin O’Connor (’89, lacrosse) and manager for Monogram/alumni relations Reggie Brooks (’93, football).
“Just like regular patients, the soldiers like to see folks come in and take their minds off of what they’re dealing with physically,” Fenton said. “Visitors can lift the spirits of our wounded heroes by letting them know there’s a light at the end of the tunnel of their journeys.”
During a two-hour visit to the facility, the Walter Reed staff arranged for the group to visit with six service men – representing various branches of the United States military – who sustained significant injuries during combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. Many of the soldiers required amputation of one or more limbs and are spending their time in the hospital recovering from the wounds and, in some cases, learning to manipulate prostheses that will help them regain function in the arms and legs.
“There’s also a flip side to these trips, as visitors often come out of the experience uplifted because they develop a new perspective on life,” Fenton said. “The wounded heroes at this facility are dealing with a lot of adversity, but they have an incredible amount of strength.”
After spending the morning with the soldiers, the Monogram leaders in attendance reflected on the resolve and heroism of the hundreds of individuals hospitalized at the facility.
“Our experience at Walter Reed was powerful, and something never to be forgotten,” president Dick Nussbaum said. “The brutal reality of sacrificing oneself for your fellow citizens was evident from the start of the visit and will not ever leave us. These heroes no longer have legs, but their smiling faces and determination to live a full life makes whatever problems we face trivial.
We owe them a lifetime of thanks and support – they inspired us to be better people and to realize the strength of this country’s resolve to protect our fundamental freedoms.”
During each visit, the Monogram Club group presented a Notre Dame gear package and talked football with the soldiers, many of whom identified themselves as Irish fans.
“I saw the sign `God, Country, Notre Dame,’ when I got on campus, and it really represents how important service is at this University,” Fenton said. “To see the Monogram Club team that came here to visit – it’s a great reminder of what a wonderful institution Notre Dame is and its ability to outreach in ways like this is fantastic.”
The trip to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center was part of the Monogram Club’s service initiative during the football weekend in Washington, D.C. Nov. 10-12, in conjunction with the Notre Dame/Maryland Shamrock Series contest.
During the weekend, the Club also donated $1500 as part of the Notre Dame Alumni Association’s program to bring injured service members to the game and immerse them in the “Notre Dame experience.” Partnering with the Notre Dame Club of Washington and the Yellow Ribbon Fund, the Alumni Association sponsored close to 100 soldiers and their guests to attend the organization’s pre-game tailgate and the contest at Fed Ex Field.
The Monogram Club’s paid for five Army service men to enjoy the experience, including Cpl. Jeff Shonk, Sgt. Recardo Torres, Sgt. Theodore Jones, Sgt. Fred Wint, and Sgt. Robert Henne.