The scene at the Edward Binyah Kesseley Barracks near Schiefflin, Margibi County yesterday was one of jubilation, characterized by a military demonstration drill when President George Weah performed the historic groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of a 200-bedroom military hospital.
The President expressed strong conviction that the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) can play a major role in uniting and building a more peaceful and prosperous Liberia, as well as make a significant contribution to regional peace and stability, an Executive Mansion release said.
It can be recalled that on February 11, this year, while addressing AFL servicemen and women during the 61st Anniversary of the Armed Forces of Liberia, President Weah promised to construct a 200-bedroom military hospital for use by military and Para-military personnel.
According to the release, President Weah reiterated his pledge and commitment to ensure the building of an army of professionally-trained soldiers, who are well paid, highly educated, comfortably housed, and medically cared for in keeping with the highest standards.
Noting the lack of a good healthcare program for the army, President Weah observed the absence of specialized medical facilities for “our men and women in arms, while our wounded soldiers returning to Liberia from peacekeeping missions abroad would have to be evacuated to other countries for specialized medical treatment that they require.”
Weah noted that too often military personnel, including their families requiring medical attention, have to travel outside the barracks to seek medical care in private clinics and hospitals, where they are given no priority and sometimes left to languish in private wards with no attention.
President Weah reminded the gathering that in order to address the prevailing concerns and bring the needed relief to “our soldiers and security personnel,” he has pledged to build a hospital exclusively for use by the army and other security personnel.
Doing a countdown, President Weah said yesterday marked exactly six weeks after he made that promise, which culminated into a gathering to break ground for the first military hospital to ever be built in Liberia. Barely a month and a half and his administration, he said, has approved the designs and plans for the hospital and arranged the required financing. A few weeks after the historic groundbreaking, he said he expects construction on the military hospital to get in full swing.
The new hospital, according to the release, is to be named “The 14 Military Hospital.” It will be equipped with the most modern facility, and will be staffed by highly trained medical personnel.
“The hospital will also be a teaching hospital, to train our men and women in arms in all medical disciplines. It is the first step towards fulfilling my commitment to build a modern and professional Liberian army,” the release quoted the President.
To address lingering questions as to why the new hospital is called “The 14 Military Hospital,” President Weah recalled that in 1995, “since a Liberian became the first – and to date – the only African to win the coveted Ballon d’Or, the highest award in soccer, the world most popular sport, no African has come close. The recipient of the Ballon d’Or is given the title of “FIFA World Footballer of the Year.”
The winner brings honor not only to his country, but also his continent. This is the first and so far the only world title that has been awarded to any Liberian in any sport, and it planted the Liberian flag forever in soccer’s Hall of Fame.
“I was that Liberian, and the number on my back when I played for the Lone Star at that time, was 14. It is now attached to this important institution as a symbolic reminder of what Liberians can achieve when we put our hearts and minds together to promote and defend our country’s cause. We can be the best in the world,” the President told the audience.
President Weah added, “You will soon learn that I am a man of action and deeds, not of empty words and talk. When I give my word, it is my bond. I do more than just talk, I act; I do more than just promise, I deliver. I have always kept my promises, because a promise means everything, because once it is broken, sorry means nothing. This hospital marks the beginning of another promise kept. It is the first project of my administration, and I promise you that it will not be the last.”
Defense Minister Major/General Daniel D. Ziankahn (Rtd.) welcomed all and sundry to yesterday’s ceremony and thanked President Weah for making a dream come true.
The ceremony was attended by Associate Justice Philip Banks, The Speaker and Members of the Legislature, the Cabinet, Diplomatic and Consular Corps, AFL top brass and foreign military attaché.