Baptist Health Hardin salutes local military community this Independence Day

Baptist Health Hardin. July 03, 2024

ELIZABETHTOWN, KY (July 2, 2024) – Independence Day is a time for flags and fun, pool parties, and the smoky scent of grilled meat clinging to the air. It is a time to celebrate the birthday of the place we call home – the United States of America.

On patriotic holidays, we are often reminded that freedom is not free. From a historical perspective, Independence Day conjures up patriotic images such as battle scenes from the Revolutionary War, the Boston Tea Party, and Paul Revere’s ride. Those images, nearly 250 years old, are more than just pictures from a history book. They depict real life events filled with strife, sorrow, and a fierce fight to become our own sovereign nation.

“Independence Day is a joyful celebration of freedom,” said Baptist Health Hardin President Robert Ramey. “It’s also a time to pause with gratitude for all the men and women who have fought – and continue to fight – for liberty for our nation and for the individual freedoms we enjoy.”

Baptist Health Hardin and Fort Knox

Only 15 miles north of Baptist Health Hardin, lies Fort Knox. Existing for over 100 years, it pre-dates the hospital by a long stretch. By 1922, the former Camp Knox had grown to be the second largest army training center in the nation. It became a permanent installation in 1932, when it became formally known as Fort Knox. Today, it houses a daytime population of more than 26,000 military personnel and their families.

Thousands of locals drive through Fort Knox daily, past the General George Patton Museum and the famed gold vault that has been glamorously portrayed in film and literature. Many have likely never stepped foot on the base and do not know the extent of its operations.

Fort Knox is not only a major player in the regional community, but it is an active military community preparing soldiers in the fight for freedom even today.

Baptist Health Hardin, formerly Hardin Memorial Health, has had a long history of collaboration with Fort Knox and support for the military. The hospital has historically held a long-standing working relationship with Ireland Army Hospital – and now the community clinic – with hospital leaders meeting with the clinic’s command team, which rotates every two years.

Baptist Health Hardin is one of three regional hospitals providing healthcare support to cadet summer training, which starts at the end of May and lasts all summer. During summer training, this means offering care for more than 15,000 cadets – and with soldiers’ family members, that number can be closer to or above 35,000.

Because military personnel can have unique needs when it comes to insurance and billing, Baptist Health Hardin maintains a full-time liaison in its Emergency Department during cadet summer training to assist cadets and their families in ensuring all administrative processes are followed with respect to military protocol.

With such a close presence to Fort Knox, the hospital has a tradition of offering its support for the local military community. Here are some interesting facts from hospital history:

  • In 1990, hospital staff built a star atop the building, which was dedicated to the auxiliary, which extended the dedication to military personnel and their families. The star, a symbol of “peace, unity, and guidance,” was a 22-foot-wide structure made from galvanized pipe and lit with 80 bulbs on both sides. It remained lit for 423 nights.
  • In 1991, physicians Anthony Martin, MD, Robert Taylor, MD, and William Nash, MD, were deployed to the Middle East to work in a combat hospital. After four and a half months, Marshall Johnson, MD, John Wright MD, and Robert Padgett, MD were also called as replacements for other deployed physicians.
  • The hospital has also been involved in many commemorative and celebratory events over the years including the opening ceremony of the Association of the United States Army (AUSA) meeting in Washington, D. C., in 1991; the Army’s 229th Birthday celebration in 2004; the Hooray for Heroes event in Radcliff in 2014; and USA Cares events.
  • Hospital leaders have historically communicated and collaborated with Fort Knox on regional and economic growth matters.
  • Support for soldiers has been strong over the years, with employees adopting the 233rd Transportation Company during its deployment as part of Operation New Dawn. More than three tons of goods accompanied by thank you notes were sent to soldiers in 2011. Care packages were also transported to Iraq in 2012, and welcome home celebrations for soldiers were held the same year.
  • Many long-time staff members may remember when North Dixie Avenue was blocked to accommodate the landing of the U.S. Army Black Hawk helicopter for patient transport.
  • More recently, in 2021, the hospital hosted the U. S. National Guard during the COVID-19 pandemic. Soldiers came to support various departments in their duties, providing relief to hospital staff who had worked tirelessly during the pandemic.
  • In April 2024, Baptist Health Medical Group Family Medicine in Radcliff celebrated a grand re-opening in conjunction with community partner Abound Credit Union. The practice, located near the Wilson Gate of Fort Knox, expanded its footprint and services, placing a stronger focus on behavioral health services. The practice worked with Abound Credit Union to receive education and resources to allow them to better assist people experiencing financial stress.

Healthcare and the military through the years

While each of us pauses to give thanks for our freedoms this Independence Day, the hospital’s relationship with Fort Knox reminds us of the tolls of battle on our soldiers and the need for healthcare for the military in times of war and peace.

According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, during the Revolutionary War, an estimated 4,435 soldiers were killed, and 6,188 were wounded in battle. While the number may seem small by today’s standards, it was significant given that there were only an estimated 217,000 active-duty military personnel during the war, compared to over 16 million in World War II and 8.7 million in the Vietnam War.

Revolutionary War casualty numbers are comparable to about two-thirds of the population of Vine Grove today – and remember, the population of the whole country in 1776, was only about 2.5 million, according to the U. S. Census Bureau. That number had increased by 132 times in 2020, to 331.4 million.

The hospital has experienced its own exponential growth since its opening 70 years ago – from serving one county to serving ten today; from 81 beds to 300; from  311 inpatient admissions to more than 12,000 in 2023; and from 60 employees to nearly 3,500 today.

More than 100 veterans and reservists are employed by Baptist Health Hardin and Baptist Health Medical Group in central Kentucky.

Celebrating freedom today

On July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was passed by the Continental Congress, establishing a path for 13 colonies to become their own nation. But the war raged on with Great Britain another seven years beyond the signing of the famous document, with Great Britain finally conceding the United States as an independent nation in 1783.

The Declaration of Independence affirms that, “…all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

“It is an honor to serve the soldiers who serve us – and to call Fort Knox a community partner. This Independence Day, we recognize the heroes right here in our own backyard and beyond,” said Ramey. “May they – and our entire community – have a happy and safe Fourth of July, while remembering those who fought nearly 250 years ago for America’s independence and those who continue to fight for our collective and individual freedoms today.”