"They saved my son's life, and saved many others, and people need to know that it happened here at Spaulding." ~ Jeff Brodeur

An emotional, uplifting reunion and dedication ceremony were held recently at the Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts. Wreaths Across America was honored to be among the guests.

Rooms 715 and 716 on the 7th floor at Spaulding now bear the names of Dr. Heechin Chae and Colonel Dr.  Rocco Armonda as a result of generous gifts from the Korean War Veterans Delaware Chapter 1 Wounded Warrior Fund.

During the dedication, these doctors were reunited with a young soldier and his family who came under their care almost 11 years ago years ago. Then, 19-year-old Army Private Vincent Mannion-Brodeur, member of the 82nd Airborne Divison, was rushed back to the United States after being gravely wounded in an explosion while hunting insurgents in Tikrit, Iraq. His Team Leader only feet away from Vincent was killed instantly.

Dr. Armonda first met Vincent at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and humbly states he and Dr. Chae were part of a large team of care providers.

"He had polytrauma," Dr. Armonda explained. "Severe traumatic brain injury, severe injuries to his extremities, and severe abdominal injuries as well. He had the worst of all scenarios where we had to relieve the increasing cranial pressure building up by removing a part of his skull."

Before it was said and done both sides of Vincent’s cranium would be removed except a strip of bone going down the middle of his skull. He had two blood clots removed from the right side of his brain, and half his frontal lobe on the left side of his brain was removed as well.

"From the very first combat medics on the battlefield who resuscitated Vincent, from the combat support hospital that did his initial surgery, to the Air Force evacuation system that brought him back to the United States, to my colleagues at Walter Reed, to the incredible rehabilitation he's gotten here at Spaulding. It's a testament to the entire team, and we're all gratified by his remarkable improvements."

Vincent, his Mother Maura Mannion-Brodeur, a veteran of the U.S. Navy, and his father, Korea DMZ veteran and Korean War Veterans Association National 2nd Vice President Jeff Brodeur were able to express their love and gratitude to Dr's Armonda and Chae as well as the nurses and staff at the Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital during the dedication event.

Vincent's mother recalls the despair they were facing when they learned of his condition. He was taken to Germany after being evacuated from Iraq. The call from the Army indicated they should pack their bags because he was not expected to make it home.

"I remember back then when we were told several times Vincent wouldn't make it through the night and I went to the chapel and said, 'God is there anything I can do to change your mind? He's our only son."

When Wreaths Across America talks of remembering and honoring military families for their sacrifice, the Mannion-Brodeur family serves as just one profound example. They have been tireless advocates for private rehabilitative care outside of the VA healthcare system for Vincent, and other wounded heroes.

"We were learning as we went along," Maura shares. "We didn't know what was on the other side of this experience, but we knew he was alive, and the work was just beginning." Indeed Maura and Jeff have been full-time care providers for a young man with special needs he developed in uniformed service to our nation.

"Because of his brain injury and lack of filters, I'm not sure he completely understands what's happening today, but he's excited, and recognizes these men and other medical professionals here as part of our family." 

Striving to provide the best possible medical care for their injured son, Maura and Jeff lead the march for families of other disabled veterans to expand access to private rehabilitative care closer to the homes of disabled veterans like Vincent.

"What we started here with Vincent is historic," explains Vincent's father Jeff Brodeur. "This was the first major facility to get private care for military personnel. We had to hammer out a tri-care contract to get them to be able to send soldiers up here, and that wasn't easy because we were getting a lot of resistance back then. This was a win for the little guy."

Since sustaining his injuries in Iraq in 2007, Vincent was in a coma for a year, he's undergone 45 surgeries, suffered a stroke, and today requires multiple medications and round-the-clock care. He faces another surgery in June. Despite all that, those attending the dedication at Spaulding agree Vincent has made remarkable progress.

With his endearing smile, Vincent expressed his gratitude for the doctors. "Every day is a gift."

Read More