- The Washington Times - Monday, July 25, 2011

The maroon flag that’s flown for more than a century above the Walter Reed Army Medical Center will be lowered for the last time Wednesday as part of a weeklong series of events marking the hospital moving its operations from the District to Maryland and Virginia.

“It’s looking back and celebrating the legacy and history, but also looking forward to the future of the newly realigned tri-service hospital,” said hospital spokesman Chuck Dacey.

The 102-year-old medical center has treated soldiers at its Georgia Avenue Northwest facility from World War I to present-day conflicts in the Middle East, along the way also serving military families, five-star Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower and other U.S. presidents such as Richard M. Nixon.

The formal retirement of a flag — and its reverent placement into a case — symbolizes the end of a military unit.

Among the scheduled events will be a Wednesday concert by ‘70s rockers the Doobie Brothers for military families and a change-of-command ceremony Friday that will transfer leadership of the medical center from Maj. Gen. Carla Hawley-Bowland to Brig. Gen. Joseph Caravalho Jr.

In 2005, the Base Realignment and Closure commission approved the integration of the Walter Reed Army Medical Center into the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda and a hospital in Fort Belvoir, Va. The more than 100 acres of hospital land will go to the State Department and the city.

The U.S. Army Medical Department said the move will cost roughly $1 billion and that more than $200 million will be spent upgrading the Bethesda center. Mr. Dacey said construction at the Bethesda site would be completed by the Sept. 15 deadline.

The medical center opened May 1, 1909, to a small number of patients, and throughout the decades new buildings were added to the campus. Today it treats hundreds of thousands of patients annually.

The center fell into disrepair in more recent years, resulting in substandard housing and outpatient treatment. In 2005, the commission decided that it would be financially wiser to move the center than update the current location.

Mr. Dacey said the events are being held in July because next month employees and equipment will be moved to the new locations.