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Thirty-eight business, government and military people from Harford County visited wounded warfighters last month at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

Harford County Executive David R. Craig and Command Sgt. Maj. Rodney Rhoades of the Aberdeen Proving Ground Garrison served as ambassadors for the “Spirit of Thanks” tour, which included a consortium of local and federal government, education officials and members of the private sector.

The purpose of the visit was for representatives of the consortium to express their thanks and appreciation to our nation’s wounded warriors for their service and offer holiday care packages to soldiers and their families. More than $3,000 was contributed for gift cards for the care packages, according to a Harford County government press release.

Harford County Director of Economic Development Jim Richardson said visiting the wounded warfighters was one of the most thought provoking experiences anyone could ever have.

“What everyone on the trip said was that the wounded warriors gave more back than we have given to them,” Richardson said. “That was absolutely how I felt.”

All the wounded soldiers, except for one, Richardson met were missing at least one limb, but he said all of them were in good spirits.

“It was amazing how positive those guys were,” he said. “Their first goal is to get back to their unit.”

Richardson said seven of the eight wounded warfighters he met were injured by improvised explosive devices, or IEDs.

“That is exactly the type of work at APG,” Richardson said, referring to the mission at Aberdeen Proving Ground. “Every Harford Countian supports those wounded warriors by supporting Aberdeen Proving Ground.”

Denise Carnaggio, deputy director of the Harford County Office of Economic Development, said she saw a connection between the wounded and the research taking place at APG.

“I went to the therapy sessions and learned a lot about the soldiers and the strength and sacrifice they’re making,” she said. “I saw a real connection with some of the research that’s going on at the Aberdeen Proving Ground that’s supporting the rehab treatment of these young soldiers.”

Before arriving at Walter Reed, the group was briefed by Rhoades about what they would see.

“They need your strength, not your pity,” he said, according to a press release from the county government. “They don’t need you feeling sorry for them. They need your strength.”

Craig also addressed the group before the visit to the medical center.

“When I applied to go the military academy, the first thing they did was send you to Walter Reed so you could see what soldiers looked like after they had been in war,” Craig said, according to the press release. “The very first person I met only had half a body — no body below the waist. You really have to appreciate what they have done.”

The event was coordinated by Karen Holt, BRAC manager with Chesapeake Science and Security Corridor.

The cost of the one-day visit was offset by donations.

“We had approximately 25 different organizations, government agencies and private industries, from Baltimore to Cecil County, participate in the tour,” Holt said in the press release.

“We felt passionate about doing this in lieu of an award ceremony that we typically have among those service groups to talk about what we achieved with BRAC implementation. This was an opportunity to put into perspective why we’re supporting APG. It put a face on that message,” she added.

Aegis staff writer Rachel Konopacki contributed to this article.

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