By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
American Forces Press Service
LONDON, Aug. 30, 2012 – The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff today honored the legacy of the U.S. Paralympics and expressed his gratitude to the supporters of wounded warriors and disabled veterans.
The venue was Great Britain’s historic Hospital Club, which became a facility for treating the injured during the first world war and is now a venue for high profile events in London. There, Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey joined the U.S. Paralympics Committee and several of its sponsors to celebrate the legacy of Paralympics.
“There’s a bit of history that you all are more familiar with then I was initially,” he said. “As you know, in World War I, women doctors – Doctors Flora Murray and Louisa Garret Anderson – wanted to start a hospital for the wounded.”
“But, because they were women, they couldn’t do it,” Dempsey explained. “The British government wouldn’t recognize them. I don’t think any government would have at that time. It was long before women had achieved their rightful status in society.”
The chairman said the two women were not deterred and went to France and successfully established a hospital.
“It worked so well that the British government brought them back,” Dempsey said. “And in this building, they set up a 550-bed hospital to care for the wounded in that tragic war.”
The general described Murray and Anderson as pioneers, groundbreakers, innovators and agents of change.
“They were people that wanted to make a difference, and that’s who you all are, by the way,” Dempsey told the audience. “[Yes], that’s what the Paralympics Committee [is]. You’re pioneers, you’re change agents, [and] you’re difference makers in people’s lives.”
“For that, I couldn’t tell you how proud we are to be here today to see that,” he added.
Dempsey also made clear that wounded warriors, disabled veterans and the military were honored to be involved with their supporters and the Paralympics.
“One of the things I’m going to tell you – you’ve got to stop thanking us for being here,” the general said. “People are very kind about that. They’ll say ‘we’re so honored to have you here.’ And I’m thinking to myself ‘no, no you’ve got it backwards.’ I was honored to be asked to lead the delegation and to have the privilege, really, of getting to meet you, those of you that enable and empower these incredible young people to do everything they can do to live their lives,” he said. “Not against their disability, but to their ability. And that’s a distinction I think is incredibly important – one that we all ought to learn from.”
The chairman also pointed out how meaningful it is to him to have wounded warriors taking part in this event.
“[There are] 225 or so athletes, 20 of them, I’m very proud to say, are wounded warriors, veterans in the armed forces of the United States,” Dempsey said. “I think that it’s a match made in heaven. Sadly, we continue to have additional members added to the rolls of wounded warriors. But having something like this, and a partnership that … can actually inspire them is just terrific.”
“[The] inspiration that those physically disabled, but not unable, young men and women demonstrated out there is just extraordinary,” he said. “It is one of those places that you come across in your life where you say ‘you know, it really doesn’t matter who wins, because their all winners.’”