"We were worried at first," said Liberian heath care worker Rachael Walker's family when they heard the frightening news that Rachael had been diagnosed with Ebola. "But when we found out she was being transferred to the American Ebola treatment unit in Monrovia, we thanked God first and then we thanked America second for caring about us."
Rachael lives in Liberia where she works as a nurse's aide at the Rock City Community Clinic. She is 31 years old and today - thanks to the heroic care provided to her by our U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps officers - she is Ebola-free.
I had the honor of sending a team of these healthcare heroes off to Liberia and this past week they returned to their families, after two months away from loved ones.
"May we always stand between that which affects the health and safety of not only our people, but our brothers and sisters throughout the world," wrote Lt. Commander Brady Fath, one of the officers I met with yesterday.
The Commissioned Corps is one of the seven uniformed services and is the only service solely committed to protecting, promoting and advancing the health and safety of the nation. In recent years, the Corps has answered the call to serve during times of tribulation and tragedy - the Newtown shootings, the Haiti earthquake and the 9/11 attacks. I worked with Corps members in New Orleans when they came to serve in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
In West Africa, Commissioned Corps officers are caring for health care workers at the Monrovia Medical Unit, so they, in turn, can continue to care for Ebola patients throughout the region. In other words, to offer help, healing, and hope.
Earlier this week at the White House, President Obama gathered members of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps and the U.S. military, along with key health care professionals, to thank them for their service and to highlight the progress we have made in the fight to combat Ebola. Addressing them, the President said, "All of you represent what is best about America and what's possible when we lead."
Because of the leadership, service and expertise shown by our officers, former patients like Amelia Vaye are able to say that "Ebola is real, but there is protection here at Monrovia Medical Unit."
Ebola is real. And we are truly grateful for our officers' courageous service.