Monday, August 13, 2007
The headquarters for the new Warrior Transition Brigade at Walter Reed Army Medical Center has been named in honor of an Army medic killed last year in Afghanistan while trying to rescue other soldiers.
About 50 family members, friends and soldiers gathered Aug. 2 at the Army hospital in Northwest Washington for a dedication ceremony to rename Building 38 as Vaccaro Hall, after Army Cpl. Angelo J. Vaccaro.
On Oct. 2, Vaccaro, assigned to the 10th Mountain Division in Afghanistan, learned that two soldiers in his platoon had been wounded in a firefight with enemy forces in the Korengal Valley. He immediately volunteered for a mission to extract the casualties. In the ensuing operation, Vaccaro, 23, was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade and died instantly.
The Army established the Warrior Transition Brigade in April in an effort to improve long-term care of wounded soldiers at Walter Reed. Combat-experienced soldiers have been brought in to help guide outpatients through the medical bureaucracy.
Maj. Gen. Eric Schoomaker, Walter Reed's commander, told the audience that it was appropriate to name the building after Vaccaro, who overcame drug use and brushes with the law to become a decorated combat medic, according to the Defense Department's official news service. Vaccaro grew up in the Bronx and moved with his family from New York to Deltona, Fla. He joined the Army in 2004 at the encouragement of his older brother Ray, who was at the ceremony.
"The fact that we've taken a building that was part of this historic campus now 100 years old . . . and rejuvenated it and reapplied it toward this new mission of the Warrior Transition unit really is the embodiment of Angelo Vaccaro -- a man who put his life back together and became a combat medic and found meaning," Schoomaker said.
"Like [Vaccaro], this institution is on a journey of redemption to reaffirm its service to the nation and to the Army, to warriors that have been wounded or ill or have been injured in service to their nation," Schoomaker added.
-- Steve Vogel