Warrior Transition Brigade - National Capital Region celebrates 10 year anniversary

WTU Force Structure Maj. Gen. Terrence J. McKenrick, commanding general, Brigade Modernization Command speaks via video teleconference at an event celebrating the 10 year anniversary of the Warrior Transition Brigade-National Capital Region at the D.C. National Guard Armory, Washington D.C. May 5, 2017. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army, Staff Sgt. Austin L. Thomas)

By Whitney Delbridge Nichels, Army Warrior Care and Transition

Few medical centers in America have the storied history and legacy of Walter Reed. The hospital - which relocated to Bethesda in 2011 - has cared for past presidents, generals and thousands of wounded service members for over a century.

At a special event, held at the D.C. Armory, some of those service members and their families joined Army leaders to celebrate the 10th year of the medical center's Warrior Transition Brigade - National Capital Region.

One of the leaders in attendance was Lt. Gen. Gary H. Cheek, Director of the Army Staff and former Commanding General of the Warrior Care and Transition Command. Cheek spoke about the resolve shown by the men and women who have transitioned through Walter Reed and their determination to push forward despite their injury or illness. "Life is about abilities not disabilities," Cheek said. "There is so much you can do."

Current WTB Commander Col. Christopher Boyle, who transitioned through the brigade as wounded warrior himself, commended the WTB and staff for providing the quality of care that the heroes coming through their doors deserve.

"We have a dedicated civilian and military cadre that work on and off the clock to make sure soldiers and their families are taken care of," Boyle said.

In an emotional moment, Lt. Col. Bruce Gannaway, Fort Hood WTU Commander, recalled his days at the Walter Reed WTB after an Improvised Electronic Device explosion in Iraq cost him his left leg in December 2007.

After more than 30 surgeries and intense physical therapy, Gannaway shared what helped him get through some of the dark days of transition: "I was part of a community that pulled together in the face of adversity. Soldiers in transition, family members, squad leaders, medical providers, therapists and case managers of all types -- we hung on to each other and pushed forward."

Another important factor in a successful recovery is family support. That perspective was shared by Tammy Kartcher, a former non-medical attendant.

Kartcher's son came into the WTB at Walter Reed in 2010 after suffering multiple gunshot wounds in Iraq. Kartcher tearfully thanked the staff for providing a support system for patients and caregivers who are going through a transition of their own.

"You watch {your loved one} learn to do things all over again -- to walk, eat, and speak. Sometimes I wanted to pull my hair out. Other times it was so rewarding to watch the warriors and caregivers adapt to their new way of life," said Kartcher.

In the last decade, the medical center has worked tirelessly to care for our nation's wounded, ill and injured soldiers. According to former WTB Commander Maj. Gen. Terrence J. McKenrick, it is about fulfilling promises to the thousands of families that depend on the WTB to "take care of their sons and daughters."

While celebrating the many successful recoveries made in the WTB, event organizers also made sure to honor those who could not be saved. A remembrance presentation displayed the names of every service member who has passed away at the Walter Reed WTB in the last decade.

"We mourn the loss of life," said Lt. Col. Gannaway. "Where there is loss of life, there is usually injury as well. We need to continue to uphold our promise to take care of our own."