"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."
Terry says veterans make up about 18 percent of the Berkshire Hathaway company's workforce. Wreaths Across America gives them the opportunity to recognize veterans across the country but most importantly says Terry to honor their employees who served.
Wreaths Across America announced that its Executive Director Karen Worcester and Founder Morrill Worcester were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor Society’s Patriot Award, the highest award the Society can bestow to an individual.
I was a Navy spouse for 12 years and during that time we lost over two dozen of our closest friends. Most of whom are buried at Arlington National Cemetery and Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in San Diego.
Photo Contest Winners Announced
Wreaths Across America chose the 2018 Mid-America Trucking Show (MATS) in Louisville, KY, from March 22-24 to debut its newly designed Traveling Education Exhibit. This 48-foot display trailer hooked to its Chevy truck was loaded with many “hands on” technology and interactive information about the program to help visitors learn about the mission to Remember, Honor, and Teach.
Chairman of the Board of Directors, Wayne Hanson was honored to be one of the Wreaths Across America team accompanying the exhibit, where one of the more memorable things he had the pleasure of doing was to say two words to some of those present…”Welcome Home!”
As the only fully-integrated recycling provider in Central Texas, TDS joined in the effort to remember, honor and teach by donating their services.
All of the 30 Medal of Honor Recipients in attendance during the four days of events were glad to have a chance to meet Morrill and Karen.
The goal of the S.W.A.T. training is to create a core "support group" for location and fundraising volunteers with more experienced leaders joining the ranks every year.
"If you're an American, you're proud to do it. I know it's probably one of the best things I've done every year."
Mission Matters with Karen Worcester is a new program heard only on Wednesdays on Wreaths Across America Radio. Here's the schedule of the shows coming up and a link to the station.
Anyone who really knows me knows that I am often a walking Wreaths Across America billboard. They will normally see me sporting a WAA-branded sweatshirt or t-shirt, my blue and green WAA wristband and my ever-present WAA baseball cap. I’m proud of my connection with WAA and love to promote what we do and why we do it.
That being said, I want to relate a recent encounter I had while standing in line at our local Social Security Administration (SSA) Office the other day.
Air Force Veteran*, Wayne Merritt, currently manages the Veterans Transportation Program based out of Wreaths Across America Headquarters in Maine. Monday thru Friday, Wayne travels to area towns in the Downeast region to pick up veterans and bring them to their doctors’ appointments. This is just one of the many free programs Wreaths Across America offers to veterans and their families.
Military children worry about their parent’s safety very day. These children face many challenges, frequent moves and lengthy separation due to trainings and deployments. They take on more responsibilities and worry about their parent every day.
"I really don't see it stopping, and we want people to tell us where they see it. Take pictures and videos when you check it out and share them with us on social media."
Debbie says she and the transportation team are excited about new and more efficient systems that will be in place for 2018 and beyond.
To come up with an accurate wreath count for sponsorships, great effort was taken to assure no one was forgotten.
As we approached, Morrill and I began to realize that here laid the body of a very important veteran that we had apparently overlooked for the past 26 years in our annual wreath placement.
The many stops along the way at schools, veterans organizations, police and fire stations were also overflowing with love and good wishes.
I want my daughter to grow up understanding what true heroes are and the sacrifices that have been made for us to live in a free country.
Complete strangers just moments before, together, Denny and Ella read the name on her grandfather's headstone and talked some about him while laying his wreath.
"When she explained to us what Wreaths Across America is and does, it was a no-brainer for me that we would get involved."
On behalf of her father Rod, Cindi shared her grandfather's words with the audience during the memorial service. You can hear her presentation and see other highlights from the service in this video.
These two quiet and humble individuals are a team dedicated to giving back to their nation. They educate others by sharing their experiences and lessons of love and sacrifice not just from the war but the other "battlefields of life."
To better serve our volunteers in 2018 and beyond, we're reorganizing and providing more tools to support their inspiring efforts.
"I witnessed a few of the boys laying an "in honor of" wreath. They did it with reverence."
Guided by an infrangible faith when the supply of lifejackets ran out they gave up their own to save the lives of others.
"I went up to that hill and looked at all of those graves of my colleagues who have gone before me.
Volunteers planning to assist in removing wreaths are asked to attend a short briefing at the McClellan Gate at 8:30 a.m. and to follow these guidelines.
As witnessed through this video, the volunteer commitment of patriotic citizens is a year-round effort that culminates in a remarkable day of unity, friendship, and healing.
Some give the ultimate sacrifice of a loved one and are often left in sorrow to wonder if other citizens remember or appreciate what they gave up for liberty and justice for all.