Archive for July 2014

July 3, 2014

American Flag - Independence Hall, ca 1966

Independence Day Message

As Written by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, Washington, D.C.,

Friday, July 04, 2014

As we celebrate Independence Day, I want to express my gratitude to the men and women and their families who serve our nation at home and abroad. Thank you for all you do to help keep America safe.

When the Declaration of Independence was signed 238 years ago, 56 patriots pledged their lives and their sacred honor to defend our inviolable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. They left a legacy that lives on today through generations of Americans who have made that same pledge to boldly stand up against tyranny, oppression, and persecution. Their devotion to duty is just as strong, as is their willingness to risk their lives for each other and our country.

Those who serve in our armed forces, and their families, have given so much to defend the ideals and free institutions we often take for granted. Their dedication reminds us that preserving America’s liberties comes with a heavy cost. Today, as we celebrate our nation’s birth, let us honor their service and strive to be worthy of their tremendous sacrifices.

God bless you, our great nation, and all who endeavor to defend it.

Happy Fourth of July!

July 3, 2014

Terminally Ill Army Wife Gives Birth to ‘Miracle’ Baby

By Elaine Sanchez DoD News, Defense Media Activity


JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO, FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas, July 3, 2014 – When doctors told Yesenia Ruiz-Rojo she was terminally ill, the pregnant 21-year-old put all thoughts of herself aside. Just save my baby, she asked.

Less than four months into her pregnancy, Ruiz-Rojo was facing aggressive liver cancer and given two to four months to live. But rather than give up, the Army wife and her team of providers at Brooke Army Medical Center here decided they were going to beat the odds.

Four months later, Ruiz-Rojo gave birth to a healthy boy named Luke.

“I love spending time with my son; he’s beautiful,” she said over the phone from a hospice center in California. “I’m so thankful for him.”

She shared a picture of her family on Easter. Her 5-year-old stepson close behind her and with her baby, in a mini suit and tie, cuddled on her lap. Luke, who turned five months old in June, has received the gift of his mom’s care for longer than anyone expected.

Army Lt. Col. (Dr.) Raul Palacios, BAMC’s chief of interventional radiology, calls Ruiz-Rojo’s case “a medical miracle.”

“She told us all she wanted was for her baby to live,” Palacios said. “She was willing to do whatever it took to make that happen.”

Ruiz-Rojo arrived at BAMC in her 15th week of pregnancy. Previously healthy, she had become alarmed by a severe bout of abdominal pain and vomiting and went the emergency room at Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center, Fort Hood, Texas. Tests revealed a tumor covering more than 65 percent of her liver. She was transferred to BAMC two days later.

When BAMC providers heard about the case, they knew the situation was dire. Based on current literature and case reports, a pregnant woman with this type of aggressive cancer hadn’t lived very long, let alone long enough to deliver a healthy child.

“There was nothing out there we found in conventional medicine that would offer her any hope,” Palacios said. “We weren’t aware of anything in the past that had been tried successfully before.”

Unwilling to give up, experts from more than a dozen specialties met to explore every possible treatment option.

They couldn’t remove the tumor because of its size and location, and traditional cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy, would cause harm or terminate the patient’s pregnancy, explained Army Col. (Dr.) Stephen Harrison, BAMC’s chief of hepatology and consultant to the surgeon general for gastrointestinal and liver diseases.

Palacios suggested they try a fairly new therapy called selective internal radiation therapy with Y-90, which places tiny radioactive particles in the patient’s artery that feeds the liver tumor which then either shrinks or dies, he explained.

BAMC is the only Defense Department facility that uses this treatment, he noted, which is FDA approved to treat primary liver and colon cancer.

“After meticulous consideration, the entire team felt there would be minimal risk to the patient and her baby,” Palacios said. “We held our breath, acknowledged Mrs. Ruiz-Rojo’s desires, and made the best educated decision with what we knew at the time.”

Interventional radiology completed her Y-90 treatment in six weeks, after which there was nothing left to do but monitor her health and pregnancy, Palacios said, noting some early encouraging signs that the tumor was responding. Ruiz-Rojo returned to the hospital at 32 weeks and delivered her baby on Jan. 9.

Her providers were thrilled at the outcome.

“The fact that at a moment’s notice everyone dropped everything to come up with a plan speaks volumes about BAMC’s dedication and commitment to care for our patients,” Palacios said.

“If the team hadn’t looked outside the box, we wouldn’t have had the chance to give her a viable baby,” added Army Col. (Dr.) Scott Kambiss, chief of OB/GYN. “Just the idea that someone would have that opportunity to bring forth life … that was incredible for all of us. Every day is a day she didn’t have before.”

Shortly after, Ruiz-Rojo moved to California to spend time with her family and new baby while relatively symptom-free. She has lived there since mid-March creating happy memories her son can view in pictures and videos as he grows up.

“She didn’t want cancer treatments that would impair the quality of time she has left with her baby,” Palacios said.

Ruiz-Rojo’s journey may end soon, but because of a caring team of BAMC providers, her baby now has a shot at a long and happy life, Palacios said.

“I hope someone tells Luke someday how brave his mother was to allow doctors at BAMC to participate in her health,” he said.

“The fact that she is able to be with her child and experience this time with him is amazing,” Harrison added. “It’s heartwarming for all of us.”

Ruiz-Rojo’s mother, Olivia, expressed her gratitude in Spanish while at her daughter’s bedside in hospice.

“Luke is a beautiful baby — so active, so playful,” she said over the phone. “All my daughter wanted was to have her baby and have some time with him. She was able to do that, thanks to the caring doctors at BAMC.”

July 1, 2014

Howard Becomes Navy’s First Woman to Reach Four-star Rank

Navy News Service

ARLINGTON, Va., July 1, 2014 – Michelle Janine Howard today became the first woman to attain the rank of four-star admiral in the Navy’s 238-year history during a ceremony at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery.

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus presided over the ceremony and administered the oath of office.

“Michelle Howard’s promotion to the rank of admiral is the result of a brilliant naval career, one I fully expect to continue when she assumes her new role as vice chief of naval operations, but also it is an historic first, an event to be celebrated as she becomes the first female to achieve this position,” Mabus said. “Her accomplishment is a direct example of a Navy that now, more than ever, reflects the nation it serves — a nation where success is not born of race, gender or religion, but of skill and ability.”

Navy Adm. Jonathan W. Greenert, chief of naval operations, noted Howard’s success through more than decades of service. “Michelle’s many trailblazing accomplishments in her 32 years of naval service are evidence of both her fortitude and commitment to excellence and integrity,” he said. “I look forward to many great things to come from the Navy’s newest four-star admiral.”

Howard, who most recently has served as the deputy chief of naval operations for operations, plans and strategy, will relieve Navy Adm. Mark E. Ferguson III as the 38th vice chief of naval operations later today.

Howard is a 1978 graduate of Gateway High School in Aurora, Colorado. She graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1982 and from the Army’s Command and General Staff College in 1998 with a master’s degree in military arts and sciences.

Her initial sea tours were aboard USS Hunley and USS Lexington. While serving on board Lexington, she received the secretary of the Navy/Navy League Captain Winifred Collins Award in May 1987. This award is given to one woman officer a year for outstanding leadership.

She reported to USS Mount Hood as chief engineer in 1990 and served in operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. She assumed duties as first lieutenant on board the USS Flint in July 1992. In January 1996, she became the executive officer of USS Tortuga and deployed to the Adriatic in support of Operation Joint Endeavor, a peacekeeping effort in the former Republic of Yugoslavia. Sixty days after returning from the Mediterranean deployment, Tortuga departed on a West African training cruise, where the ship’s sailors, with embarked Marines and U.S. Coast Guard detachment, operated with the naval services of seven African nations.

Howard took command of USS Rushmore on March 12, 1999, becoming the first African-American woman to command a ship in the U.S. Navy. She was the commander of Amphibious Squadron 7 from May 2004 to September 2005. Deploying with Expeditionary Strike Group 5, operations included tsunami relief efforts in Indonesia and maritime security operations in the North Arabian Gulf. She commanded Expeditionary Strike Group 2 from April 2009 to July 2010. In 2009, Howard deployed to the U.S. Central Command theater, where she commanded the Task Force 151 multinational counterpiracy effort and Task Force 51 expeditionary forces. In 2010, she was the Maritime Task Force commander for Baltic operations under 6th Fleet.

Howard was the USO Military Woman of the Year for 2011 and the NAACP Chairman’s Image Award recipient in 2013.