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The Military Order of the Purple Heart

For Immediate Release

San Antonio, TX - May 8th and 9th, 2012

MOPH National Commander Visits San Antonio Military Medical Centers

On 8 and 9 May 2012, MOPH National Commander Bill Hutton visited all the major military medical facilities in the San Antonio, Texas area, accompanied by National Service Director Frank Van Hoy, San Antonio NSO Gilbert Ochoa, and San Antonio MOPH Chapter 1836 Commander Raymond Venezie.

The first stop of the two-day visit was the San Antonio Military Medical Center (SAMMC) (formerly BAMC).  At a special honors ceremony, Commander Hutton was joined by Chaplain Emeritus, The Reverend Father Leonard Stegman and Past LAMOPH National Chaplain A.J. Herron, to pay tribute to the doctors and nurses of the Cardiology Unit, headed by COL Mary Jo Hull, for the excellent and compassionate medical care they have provided over the course of the past year to Chaplain Stegman, whose health had been in serious decline.  At 94 years of age with two Silver Stars, the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart for his service as a Military Chaplain, Rev. Fr. Stegman is both a true hero and treasured Past National Chaplain of the MOPH.  In honor of the occasion, Commander Hutton presented COL Hull and the BAMC Cardiology Unit with a Military Order of the Purple Heart Crystal Award and Recognition Plaques.

Rev. Fr. Stegman and Cardiology Unit Team

Commander Hutton, Colonel Hull
& Fr. Stegman

Following the award ceremony, Commander Hutton and his party were taken on a tour of the SAMMC by Steven Galvan, Public Affairs Officer of the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research at Fort Sam Houston. While there, they had the opportunity to visit the newly constructed Burn Center, a centerpiece of the SAMMC and the most renowned Burn Center in the country, and were briefed by LTC (Dr.) Booker T. King, Associate Director of the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research Burn Center. The group also had the opportunity to visit with a number of the patients, each of whom received a “Commander’s Coin” from Hutton.

Hutton & Van Hoy visit a typical patient room

Dr. King explains the surgical suite

From there, the Commander’s group visited the Center for the Intrepid (CFI). Now in its 5th year of operation, the CFI is a privately funded, $50 million state-of-the-art physical rehabilitation facility that exists thanks to the generosity of more than 600,000 individual Americans and institutions, including the MOPH Service Foundation, who contributed to the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund. The CFI provides outpatient rehabilitative care to Servicemembers who have been wounded in operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. The four-story, 60,000-square-foot center is equipped with the latest rehabilitation technology and includes an indoor running track, firing range, pool, two-story climbing wall, and a prosthetic center. It also includes a computer assisted rehabilitation environment known as CAREN, which comprises a dome with a four-meter platform and screen that can simulate everything from a city sidewalk to a day on the lake so patients can improve their gait and balancing skills. The unit is one of nine in the world, and it is the only one in the United States.

Ms. Rasmussen describes apartment living

Group tours the CFI Gymnasium

During the excellent and informative tour, led by Kathleen Rasmussen, Commander Hutton and his party had the opportunity to meet and visit with a number of patients undergoing rehabilitation at the CFI. One of the female patients was particularly interesting since she was in the process of being fitted for high-heeled shoes for her prosthetic leg. Again, Hutton presented each with his “Commander’s Coin.”

Hutton, Ochoa & VanHoy visit patient Brian Aft

Hutton & VanHoy meet Rosie & Alain

The next day, Commander Hutton Frank Van Hoy and Gilbert Ochoa traveled across the city to visit the newly constructed VA Polytrauma Center, where they were met and taken on a special tour by Mr. Tom Yackevicz, Administrative Officer of the Center. The San Antonio Polytrauma Rehabilitation Center is one of only five facilities in the country designed to provide intensive rehabilitative care to veterans and active duty servicemembers who experienced severe injuries, including traumatic brain or spinal cord injuries, to more than one organ system. Often, Polytrauma patients who are first treated for their injuries at SAMMC, are then moved to the VA Polytrauma Center for “in-patient” rehabilitation. Once they achieve a sufficient degree of proficiency in normal, everyday functions, they are transferred back to SAMCC and the CFI for further treatment or “out-patient” rehabilitation. Once again, Commander Hutton was able to meet and speak with several patients undergoing treatment and their families or caregivers. He also had the opportunity to meet an old patient, Alain Babin and his mother Rosie, who had returned to the center for an update on the progress of his rehabilitation. Alain and Rosie were the guests of honor at the 2010 Branson, MO “Hand-in-Hand” tribute to Purple Heart Recipients hosted by Branson.com.

As the second day of visits came to a close, each of the Patriots remarked on how this had been one of the most emotional, yet informative trips they had ever made. The great medical services provided by the medical and support staff at each of the sites visited was a tribute to their dedication to the care of servicemembers and veterans alike. As National Commander Hutton would remark, “As combat wounded Veteran's, the MOPH is so proud and grateful to the thousands of those who have served our country as nurses, doctors, medics and corpsmen. You continue to provide the wonderful care so deserved by our nation’s wounded freedom fighters.”

The organization now known as the “Military Order of the Purple Heart of the U.S.A. Inc” (MOPH) was formed in 1932 for the protection and mutual interest of all combat wounded veterans and active duty men and women who have received the decoration.  Chartered by the Congress, the MOPH is unique among Veteran Service Organizations in that all of its members were wounded in combat.  For this sacrifice they were awarded the Purple Heart Medal.  With grants from the MOPH Service Foundation, the MOPH and its Ladies Auxiliary promote Patriotism, Fraternalism, and the Preservation of America’s military history.  Most Importantly, through veteran service, they provide comfort and assistance to all veterans and their families, especially those requiring claims assistance with the VA, those who are homeless, and those requiring employment assistance.  Through the VAVS Program, MOPH volunteers selflessly provide assistance to hospitalized veterans at VA medical facilities and State Veterans Homes.

For information contact:
National Public Relations Director, John Bircher, 352-753-5535
Email: PublicRelations@Purpleheart.org
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