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Walter Reed Bethesda Celebrates Disability Inclusion


By Bernard S. Little

WRNMMC Command Communications

“What a great day it is to be an American here at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center -- the place that my family and I came to know as ‘the Miracle Factory,’” said Army Maj. Jeremy Haynes. “Right now within these walls, a miracle is happening somewhere. For me, I’m happy to say I am one of those miracles.”
Just moments before stating this, Haynes got up from his wheelchair and used a cane to walk the few steps to the microphone where he spoke as the guest speaker during the National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) observance at Walter Reed Bethesda on Oct. 30.
“[Walter Reed Bethesda] is the place that literally puts people back together, not just physically but mentally, emotionally and spiritually,” Haynes added before sharing his miracle story with those in attendance.
He spoke about “the worse day of his life” – Aug. 5, 2014. On that day while serving as the aide-de-camp to Army Maj. Gen. Harold J. Greene in Kabul, Afghanistan, Haynes sustained four life-threatening gun-shot wounds that caused immediate paralysis from his waist down. Greene died in the surprise attack, making him the highest ranking American officer to be killed in combat in the ongoing Global War on Terrorism.
Treated at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany and then WRNMMC, Haynes said he and his wife Chelsea came to the realization that his recovery would be “a marathon and not a sprint.” A doctor told Haynes that based on his injuries, he would probably not stand or walk again. “Tears poured down my face, and the doctor walked out of the room,” Haynes recalled.
Haynes said moments later, that same doctor walked back into his room, closed the door, took off his lab coat and sat down next to him. “He said to me, ‘You know young man, through faith, all things are possible. I’ve seen some pretty amazing things [at WRNMMC], so I’m not going to tell you what you can’t do. Instead, I’m going to give you the tools for what you can do.’”
“The journey wasn’t easy, but I had individuals in my corner who gave me the opportunity,” said Haynes. He said those individuals stressed focusing on what he had and not on what he didn’t have. With that encouragement, Haynes stood for the first time in November 2014.
“They believed in me and gave me opportunities,” Haynes said of the WRNMMC staff.
One of those opportunities came from adaptive sports specialist and occupational therapy assistant Harvey Naranjo, Haynes explained. He said Naranjo asked him what were some of the things he liked to do before he was injured and he told Naranjo that he liked to run. Naranjo suggested Haynes try out a hand cycle, which the major did and enjoyed.
“There are phenomenal people like Harvey and countless other medical professionals at WRNMMC who gave me an opportunity,” Haynes said.
“As we talk about National Disability Employment Awareness Month, that’s all we want – an opportunity,” Haynes continued. “We don’t want to be pitied. We don’t want to be looked down upon. We just want to be treated like human beings and have an opportunity [to show what we can do].
“Everything we do in life [involves] a report card,” Haynes said. “For those who gave me an opportunity and for those who believed in me, they have a perfect score in my book,” he added. “They gave me the chance and I am forever grateful to be one of the miracle testimonies here at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.”
The Multicultural Committee at WRNMMC hosted the observance for National Disability Employment Awareness Month, which has its roots to the return of injured service members from World War II, sparking public interest in the contributions of people with disabilities in the workplace.
In 1945, President Harry S. Truman approved a Congressional resolution declaring the first week in October as National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week. The word “Physically” was removed in 1962 to include individuals with all types of disabilities, and in 1988, Congress expanded the week to a month and changed the name to National Disability Employment Awareness Month. When it was established in 2001, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy assumed responsibility for NDEAM and has worked to expand its reach and scope ever since.
In his proclamation for this year’s observance, President Donald J. Trump stated, “During National Disability Employment Awareness Month, we celebrate the many contributions of American workers with disabilities and reaffirm our admiration of the skills and talents they bring to today's workplace. 
“Every American who is willing and able to work should have the opportunity to provide for themselves and their families.  This includes the 30 million American adults with disabilities.  Many Americans with disabilities struggle to find employment opportunities, despite the wealth of skills they have to offer.  In 2016, only 27.7 percent of working-age Americans with disabilities were employed.  More employers should recognize the fresh perspectives and skills these men and women can add to an innovation-focused workforce.  They are an incredible asset to our economy.  Our goal is to help ensure that they experience the independence, economic self-sufficiency, pride, and community that come with a job,” Trump added.