SG Message – Toward a More Perfect Union

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Esteemed Colleagues:

On the day before he died, in the speech given in support of striking sanitation workers in Tennessee, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr retold the good Samaritan story. He said that those who refused to stop for the wounded man on the road asked, “If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?” – but the good Samaritan instead asked, “If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?”

Service is the action of helping or doing work for someone. There is no greater honor and no greater reward than service. And today, there is no greater need.

As your Surgeon General, I am honored to serve alongside our selfless Sailors and civilians who are dedicated to be part of something greater than oneself. We serve to protect and defend America and the country’s national interest.

Whenever a Sailor or Marine goes, Navy Medicine is there, ready and engaged. We are there rendering medical aid in austere locations, caring for our shipmates and their families at military hospitals, developing vaccines to protect our forces against disease, and providing humanitarian assistance around the world. Service is the very bloodline of our One Navy Medicine family.

Today, four of our Rapid Rural Response Teams (RRRTs) – comprised of 24 nurses and respiratory technicians – are providing essential medical care to COVID-19 patients from the Navajo Nation in Arizona and New Mexico. Our scientists are conducting pioneering research on viral transmission, and at military treatment facilities and alongside Navy piers, we are providing vaccines against a deadly disease to protect the Force and our fellow Americans. These are just a few examples of the thousands of good actions Navy Medicine demonstrates every day.

Dr. King devoted his life to serving others and advancing equality, social justice, and opportunity for all. He challenged Americans to participate in the never-ending work of building a more perfect union. We are living through difficult times – with a global pandemic, social turmoil, economic hardships, and political strife all straining our country. Recognizing that our Nation has yet to reach its full promise is not an admission of defeat, but a call to action. As our Joint Chiefs reminded us this week, American citizens trust us to protect and defend our nation in accordance with the Constitution and I thank you for embracing this responsibility.

I challenge each of us to continue to foster an environment of dignity and respect for everyone. In our Navy, we have individuals from many different cultures, ethnicities, and histories. We must recognize this advantage and include the broadest possible spectrum of people and perspectives. Generating success as a team means going beyond merely understanding the unique perspectives of different people and cultures – understanding is too passive. Achieving top performance is enhanced when we tap into the energy and capability of an actively inclusive team.

As we mark Dr. King’s 92nd birthday this holiday weekend, let us each remember that we have much more to gain from peaceful dialogue, orderly discourse, and civility towards each other. Navy Medicine remains committed to the principles of mutual respect and understanding that Dr. King espoused. Now, perhaps more than ever, they are the cornerstones of the Navy’s Culture of Excellence and an important contribution to our nation’s ongoing effort to create a more perfect union.

With my deepest gratitude, SG

Bruce L. Gillingham, MD, CPE, AOA


Surgeon General, U.S. Navy

Chief, Bureau of Medicine and Surgery

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