Memorial Day remembrance took a whole new meaning for me this year. There is no more tragic tragedy than losing a serviceman and woman on US ground, outside of combat, unexpectedly, unfairly, and to an unopposed enemy. Not only an unopposed enemy, but one who we as a country have equipped with the tools to embody hatred and carry out unspeakable atrocities.

Two precious lives were stolen, and by two cowardly vermin responsible for spreading the pestilence of violence and crime. Two lives who dedicated a lifetime to saving other lives. A physician, a nurse, a serviceman and servicewoman, husband and wife, father and mother, son and daughter, mentors, colleagues, friends, heroes. Their abrupt departure is causing unbelievable pain to those of us who had the honor and privilege to serve with them.

To Dr. Mac-Thank you for your smile, overwhelming kindness, unwavering support, honesty, mentorship, friendship, humility, generosity, selflessness, service, and sacrifice. I will forever miss you calling my name “Heeeeeeyyyyy Jeeeeeeeen” with your funny Southern drawl. I was not really upset when you took my office 😉 And I really am sorry that you had to inherit my ‘special’ patients. We really should’ve closed the clinic and put up that “Gone fishin’ ” sign.

To Brenda-Thank you for teaching me poise and elegance, for your example of consummate professionalism, for being a trailblazer and motivating me to become one, for your encouragement, and for your service and sacrifice. I will forever miss your calls to tell me how proud you were of me, even in what I perceived to be my biggest failures. And I’ll keep telling Ed that you’re the young one 😊 Forever young now, Brenda.

My heart is shattered as I write this in remembrance of Dr./COL Edward McDaniel and COL (ret) Brenda McDaniel. May you rest in eternal peace. We will remember you as heroes. We will eternalize you as legends.  

Dr. Jennifer M. Peña was born and raised in Puerto Rico. She received her Bachelor of Science degree from Yale University in 2004, and was commissioned in the United States Army in 2008 after graduating from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. She is Board Certified in Internal Medicine. Dr. Peña’s Army experience includes multiple tours of duty, to include a deployment to Afghanistan in 2012 in support of Operation Enduring Freedom rendering medical care to detainees in the Detention Facility in Parwan, and from 2014-2018 at the White House Medical Unit. She is the first Latina to serve as a White House Physician, and the first Latina and female to occupy the position of Physician to the Vice President. Dr. Peña ended her service to the Army on January 2019. She currently works as Medical Director for Global Executive Medicine, and lives in Falls Church, VA with her husband and 5 dogs.

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