Master Sgt. Dylan Gould flashes a wide smile and holds his teenage daughter in the photo. But that picture was taken during happier times, before the Lacey resident deployed to serve as a biomedical equipment specialist in Afghanistan.
Still, the sight of his photo alongside 83 others at the unveiling of the hospital’s Deployed Warrior Wall on Thursday left his wife, Debra, beaming.
“Being on a post that has a lot of soldiers deploying often, most people don’t realize (soldiers at Madigan) deploy – especially because they don’t leave as a unit,” said Debra, who volunteers at the hospital with the American Red Cross. “Every month we’ll have two, four, seven, eight soldiers leave. And I think they’ve been forgotten a little bit.”
About 100 people gathered the unveiling ceremony. Family members, soldiers and staffers clapped as relatives of the deployed removed felt coverings to show the glass cases holding 84 pieces of matting, many with photos and decorated by family members.
Soldiers like Capt. Jason Sapp and Maj. Sean Hermick, both in Afghanistan attached to Fort Lewis’ 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division. Or Lt. Col. Laura Feider and Col. Keith Salzman, both serving in Iraq.
“We’re doing something special for them,” Madigan commander Col. Jerry Penner said, “because it’s the right thing to do.”
Soldiers at Madigan typically deploy in small units or as individuals; as such, many often don’t receive the large deployment or homecoming ceremonies other units do. The Deployed Warrior Wall is an opportunity to recognize their sacrifice, Penner said.
“We want our soldiers and their families to know we’re proud of them,” he said. “And it’s for the kids. We want them to be able to come here and say, ‘Hey, look, there’s Mom.’ Or, ‘Hey, look, there’s Dad.’”
Madigan has 106 personnel – doctors, nurses, medics and others – deployed now. (The remaining 22 soldiers who don’t have a spot on the wall are returning soon.) The hospital has sent 462 soldiers on deployment this year.
Penner drew the inspiration from his time as commander of the medical facility at Fort Drum, N.Y., where he noticed many other soldiers weren’t aware his troops deployed. Patients also didn’t realize it.
“They’d come to the hospital and realize they’re doctor had been changed,” he said after the ceremony. “We would tell them that (the doctor) was deployed. Their answer was usually, ‘Oh, I didn’t know they deployed.’”
Stephanie Swearingen’s husband, Spc. Chris Swearingen, deployed three weeks ago to serve a six-month tour as a medic at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Her Family Readiness Group contacted asked her to decorate the tribute, upon which she added a photo and a quote from the Bible.
“This is such a nice thing they’ve done for them,” she said. “It’s just – I don’t really know how else to say it. It’s just very, very thoughtful.”