MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” So said the King James Bible in reference to someone who pays the ultimate price for the safety of a nation of brothers and sisters.
Such a verse cannot be more represented than when speaking of America’s fallen men and women in uniform who defended the rights and freedoms of their loved ones on foreign or domestic soil. However, what about those who stared death in the eyes, but were pulled back away from the brink?
Before Lt. Col. Tim Maxwell was injured by mortar shrapnel during a combat deployment to Iraq in 2004, there were no places for wounded Marines and sailors to get together to recuperate with each others’ support. However, following his painful recovery, Maxwell decided something needed to be done for wounded warriors so they would not have to live with their injuries alone.
“When you’re sent back home after being injured, being alone with your injuries is the worst,” said Maxwell. “That is why we should spend time together in the same barracks to have people to talk to and not feel alone with our injuries.”
Seven years later, the Wounded Warrior Battalion – East’s presence aboard the base has expanded from a couple of wounded Marines and sailors in a few barracks rooms to what it is today: a brand-new Bachelor Enlisted Quarters and a Fisher House for wounded warriors’ families, marked by a ribbon-cutting ceremony aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, March 3.
The three-story, 100-room BEQ, completed this year, and the 12-room Fisher House, opened but not dedicated last September, are momentous additions to the WWBn-East facilities aboard the base. Keeping in mind not only injured Marines and sailors but their families as well, these two buildings are a milestone for the base and for the Marine Corps as a whole; so much so that Gen. James F. Amos, commandant of the Marine Corps, was in attendance to aid in the official dedication and opening.
“We didn’t know what we were getting into at first with the original Wounded Warrior barracks,” said Amos. “Families are going to find some sense of peace now after their lives are turned upside-down after getting that phone call that their loved one is injured.”
Also in attendance were Kenneth Fisher, CEO of the Fisher House Foundation, retired Lt. Col. Tim Maxwell and television personality Montell Williams.
“I’ve been involved with the Fisher House as a board member for over a year,” said Williams. “We need to ensure more Fisher Houses are built across the nation. I visit wounded troops every three or four weeks at Walter Reed (Army Medical Center) and Bethesda (Memorial Hospital), and I make sure everyone is aware of these houses.”
The wounded warriors who require medical treatment at Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune aboard the base stay in these new BEQ barracks while their families stay in the Fisher House to be near them and support them. With Camp Lejeune being the first Marine Corps base to have a wounded warrior barracks, it is fitting that it also be the first to have a Fisher House for the families of wounded Marines and sailors.
“The ethos of ‘never leave a Marine behind’ rings true today,” said Fisher. “We in the Fisher House Foundation will never leave a military family behind. Today is the realization of a dream, and all who pass through these doors will have the thanks of everyone for what they have sacrificed.”
As Amos joined Lt. Gen. John M. Paxton, commanding general of the II Marine Expeditionary Force; Maj. Gen. Carl B. Jensen, commanding general of Marine Corps Installations East and others in cutting the BEQ and Fisher Houses’ ribbons, a new chapter in wounded warrior care was written aboard Camp Lejeune. Although these two structures now stand ready to serve Marines, sailors and their families, the overall WWBn-East project is not yet complete. In the coming year, a new WWBn-East headquarters building and a Hope and Care center, a facility for therapy and exercise, are slated to be built as well.
“These buildings are a testament that these warriors and their families are not forgotten after the guns of war are silenced,” said Jensen. “Our warriors will never suffer alone on this base, in this community or in this Corps.”