REMARKS BY HIS EXCELLENCY DR. GEORGE MANNEH WEAH PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF LIBERIA AND COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF OF THE ARMED FORCES OF LIBERIA ON THE OCCASION OF THE FORMAL OPENING AND DEDICATION OF THE 14 MILITARY HOSPITAL SCHEFFLIN MARGIBI COUNTY, LIBERIA SEPTEMBER 1, 2021
The Dean and Members of the Cabinet;
Members of the 54th Legislature;
Other Officials of Government here presents;
The Doyen and Members of the Diplomatic and Counselor Corps;
The Chief of Staff, Officers and Men and Women of the Armed Forces of Liberia;
The Chief Medical Officer, Doctors, Nurses and Staff of the 14 Military Hospital;
Former officials of Government,
Our International Partners,
Chiefs and Elders;
Political and Business Leaders;
The Defense Attaché to the Chinese embassy and US;
Members of the Fourth Estate;
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen:
Just after I assumed the Presidency in January, 2018, I was informed that the tragedy in Mali 2017 where soldiers from the Armed Forces of Liberia are part of a United Nations Peacekeeping Mission. One of our soldiers was badly wounded and was taken to Senegal for emergency treatment. I remember when the Minister of Defense, Hon. Daniel Ziahkan, informed me of the incident and he asked me to call my Friend and Brother, H.E. Macky Sall, the President of Senegal, to thank him for receiving our soldiers, and for making sure that they received the proper medical attention.
Ziahkan then told me that they needed to send the wounded soldier’s family to Senegal to be with him, and he was requesting the Government to provide some funds to send the family. We were able to do that.
But then I became very concerned that there were no specialized medical facilities in Liberia for the use of our men and women in arms, and wondered why no previous Administration had thought it wise to provide such essential services to our military.
And then I said to Ziahkan, that since Armed Forces Day was coming in a couple of weeks, in my Armed Forces Day Speech, I would be bold enough to directly deal with this glaring deficiency. I decided that, instead of sending our soldiers who are on the war front fighting terrorism to different countries when they got wounded, we need to build our own military hospital, where we will have specialists that will treat them.
This would be an important priority of my Administration. Very shortly thereafter, less than a month after my Inauguration, I gave my first Armed Forces Day Address, on February 11, 2018. On that occasion, I announced that we would build a state-of-the-art Medical Center for the use of our Military, their families and dependents, as well as for the use of other citizens of our country.
It was clear to me that one of the advantages of having a Military Hospital is that families of the wounded would not have to travel to another country to visit their loved ones. They could go directly from their own homes, which could even encourage the patient to get well sooner. And the family members themselves could also be treated in the same hospital.
It would be the first institution of its kind in our history, and would focus on the special medical needs of our soldiers, as well as their families, both at home and abroad.
Many who listened to my pronouncement that day thought that it was just a dream, or an illusion. Just mere words being spoken which were not grounded in reality. There were many skeptics, and many critics. But those who thought that way did not know that I am not a man of words, but a man of action. They completely under-estimated my determination, and the strength of my resolve, especially when I am faced with a challenge that seems to be against all odds. I talk, and I do. Talk, and do.
So, we immediately embarked upon this project. After the conduct of a professional feasibility study, a suitable site was chosen for the new military hospital, and I broke ground for its construction in May of 2018, just three (3) months after it was first announced.
With the assistance of the Engineering Company of the Armed Forces of Liberia, construction began, and by March 2020, just ten (10) months later, the hospital, now named the 14 Military Hospital, was ninety-five (95%) completed.
It was just at that time that Liberia experienced the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic. A successful approach to containing the virus, after testing and tracking, is the requirement for effective isolation of patients who test positive.
This is where we were very fortunate to have the 14 Military Hospital available, although it was not yet completely finished and operational. Because of its location away from the general population, and without any patients already occupying its wards, it became the perfect isolation center, and played a major role in our battle with the coronavirus pandemic.
Today, it is now complete and ready for operation. Fully equipped and staffed with a dedicated and qualified team of medical professionals, it will become the central health care facility of the Armed Forces of Liberia, and with its 150-bed capacity, will begin to provide in-patient services as well as outpatient services to our men and women in arms, and their families.
In the near future, the 14 Military Hospital will provide other specialized services for the general Liberian population.
These services will include certain emergency medical and surgical procedures such as plastic surgeries, and burn care, as well as general surgery. It will become the center of healthcare excellence, providing quality services and comfort for all Liberians.
DISTINGUISHED LADIES AND GENTLEMEN:
I would now like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who have helped us to bring this dream to reality. My special thanks and commendations go out to the Minister of Defense, the Chief of Staff, the Engineering Company of the Armed Forces of Liberia, and all members of the Armed Forces of Liberia who worked on this project.
I would also like to thank the Minister of Health and her able staff for their guidance and assistance.
I would also make a special mention and express my heartfelt thanks and appreciation to Dr. Kevin Strathy and his wife Natu Strathy, who have worked diligently and with dedication to make this hospital operational and ready for opening today. They left their home and lives in Miami, Florida, and came to Liberia at my request to set up a burn unit, which is urgently needed in this country. I want to thank them for the expertise and experience which they have provided to the 14 Military Hospital, and for the patience and understanding that they have shown in navigating the difficult protocols of Government bureaucracy in Liberia.
I would also like to thank one Mr. George M. Weah for the professional manner in which he laid the very first cornerstone of this building. I am told by Mr. Weah that when he lived in the ghettos of Monrovia during his youthful days, he used to hustle for pocket money by going to various construction sites to work as a masoner. So the way that you saw him on that day, mixing cement, sand, and water, and professionally setting that cornerstone, was no surprise. It was the result of his masonry expertise that he acquired in the streets of Clara Town and Gibraltar.
Finally, we owe a special debt of gratitude to the Governments and People of India, China, and the United States of America, acting through their respective Embassies near this Capital, for their invaluable contributions to the success of this project.
DISTINGUISHED LADIES AND GENTLEMEN:
I have a vision and a mission for Liberia. My vision is to develop Liberia to the maximum extent possible during my Presidency. And my mission is to complete every project that I embark upon in that process.
This Military Hospital is one of my signature projects, and I am both proud and happy today to see that my dream has been realized, and in record time.
One of my other signature projects is the development of Bali Island. There are many who doubt our ability to bring this project to fruition. But these skeptics do not discourage nor distract me from my mission.
As Og Mandino has said, and I quote: “Failure will never overtake me if my determination to succeed is strong enough.” God being my helper, Bali Island will be another success story, and the naysayers will once again be surprised.
And so, Ladies and Gentlemen, here is the 14 Military Hospital, standing before you, fully constructed, equipped, staffed, and ready to serve Liberia.
Those who have eyes to see, let them see.
There are those who see reality, but they act like they don’t see.
But it has often been said, that none are as blind, as those who do not wish to see.
Well, let them speak today, or forever hold their peace.
What a blessing!! Without God, nothing is possible; nothing is done. To God be the Glory, for the things He has done!!! Amen!!!
I now take great pleasure and understandable pride in declaring the 14 Military Hospital officially open. As I proceed now to cut the symbolic ribbon, I dedicate this facility to the Glory of God.
I thank you.