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Veterans Crisis Line Badge

Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs

Remarks by Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson

Ribbon Cutting, Tampa VAMC Polytrauma and Rehabilitation Center
Tampa, Florida
April 12, 2014

Thank you, General Steele.

Congresswoman Castor; Congressmen Jolly, Nugent, and Bilirakis; General Austin; Ms. Fogarty and Dr. Cutolo; fellow Veterans; ladies and gentlemen.

Last year, I went to West Point for the first home game of the season. At lunch before the game, I was seated next to a young soldier. His dad, Craig, introduced me to his son, Army Sergeant First Class Cory Remsburg.

All of America got to meet Cory in January during the President's State of the Union address. The staff here at the Polytrauma Center got to know Cory much sooner and much better.

Four-and-a-half years ago, on this campus, Cory received the cutting-edge medical care that trumped his life-threatening injuries. As some of you remember, he arrived comatose—with a severe traumatic brain injury and long odds for recovery. But VA's remarkable medical staff never gave up on the effort to jump-start his brain. Supported by the latest medical knowledge and know-how, they tried a countless variety of sensory approaches to bring him to consciousness—everything from aromatherapy to TV sitcoms.

Three months later, Cory became one of seven-out-of-ten patients with severe TBI who come back to life through VA's groundbreaking Emerging Consciousness program. Thanks to the love and support of his family and the miracle workers at this Polytrauma hub, he's made steady progress. How much progress? Well, his proud dad, Craig, emailed me just this week telling me that Cory recently walked a full mile without crutches or a walker.

I've been at VA less than two months, but I've been here before—a little over a year ago. I got to see the new USO space under construction, and I specifically asked for a tour of the new Polytrauma Center. A few minutes later, this crusty-looking guy in blue jeans and a cowboy hard hat showed up to take us through the construction site. It turned out that Mike Tixier was a West Point grad I remembered from cadet days.

He gave us a great tour. By the time we were actually on the amazing Polytrauma floor, it was clear that he cared deeply about the work he was doing. In fact, one of the folks with me said, "Mike, you seem to be very passionate about what you're doing here." He paused, which made me look right at his face, and I realized there were tears in his eyes. And he said, "That's because I know who it's for."

There is a theme that connects these two stories.

We're here today to celebrate completion of this incredible new facility and to say a special "Thank You" to everyone who played important parts in making it a reality. It is important that we do so. But I think there is a bigger cause for celebration—today and every day. And that's the many thousands of dedicated professionals all across VA who care deeply about our mission, and who work hard to deliver on our promise to Veterans and their families.

This marvelous facility would be an empty shell without the doctors, nurses, therapists, psychologists, social workers, technicians, and staff, like Mike, who bring it to life every day.

When Veterans and families arrive here facing what seem to be insurmountable challenges, they experience the embrace of these caring men and women and they come to learn that these extraordinary professionals don't accept hopeless.

Last January, before attending the State of the Union address, Cory Remsburg visited Secretary Shinseki. The Secretary asked what Cory saw as his new mission in life. He didn't hesitate for a moment—he said he wants to show other wounded warriors that they, too, can beat overwhelming odds.

That is the legacy of this place and the very special men and women who work here.

Thank you for the tremendous work you've done here; for what you do every day; and for what you'll continue to do in the future, all because you "know who it's for."