- Prison inmates take up ‘Knockout’ game, target female officers
- U.S. Army hails success with drone-shooting laser
- John Kerry: Israel-Palestinian peace deal paved for April
- India diplomat who touts women’s rights busted for $3 wage to nanny
- MSNBC host Ed Schultz paid $252K by unions in 2012-2013
- Korean War memorial ordered to take down Christian cross
- Billy Graham near death, ‘close to going home to be with the Lord’
- SeaTac, Wash.: City’s new $15 minimum wage heads to court
- Obama mulls support for Islamists in Syria, with conditions
- Obama ‘birther’ theories float as Hawaii health director killed in crash
Walter Reed Army Medical Center officially closes after 102 years
The Walter Reed Army Medical Center has for more than a century helped soldiers stand on new legs, welcomed newborns into military families and offered top-notch care to U.S. leaders. But it only took a quick salute and several twists of gloved hands Wednesday to formally retire the hospital’s maroon-and-white flag - signaling the end of an era for the storied, Washington-based military hospital.
The 102-year-old facility was order closed in 2005 by the Base Realignment and Closure Commission, with its operation to be split between the renamed Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda and the Fort Belvoir Community Hospital in Fairfax County.
“It’s been painfully difficult at times,” said Maj. Gen. Carla Hawley-Bowland, commander of the medical center,as she addressed hundreds of former employees, patients and family members on the eastern lawn of the hospital. “But I could not be more confident with Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Walter Reed is not about bricks and mortar, Walter Reed is the people who provide care and compassion.”
During August, thousands of employees and patients will make the move to Maryland and Virginia. Gen. Hawley-Bowland said the official transition deadline is Sept. 15.
After the casing ceremony, Harvey Naranjo, the hospital’s adaptive sports program coordinator, stood beside his therapy dog, a chocolate Labrador retriever named Deuce, and contemplated the move he’ll be making in a few weeks.
“This is home for me,” said Mr. Naranjo, who has been with the hospital for 10 years helping amputees and assisting soldiers with occupational therapy. “The ceremony was very moving. To see the colors, I didn’t think it would hit me as hard as it did.”
Six years of planning led to Wednesday’s 90-minute ceremony.
The colors of a unit, in this case the medical center, are at the heart of its mission, and formally casing the old flags represents the ending of a mission, as those flags will not be unfurled again.
Under a white tent, soldiers in their dress whites and blues, pressed camouflage and crisp berets sat shoulder to shoulder.
The ceremony was considered an outdoor event, which meant hats could be worn and military courtesies were extended. But that didn’t stop Secretary of the Army John McHugh from getting in a friendly rib at the Navy, saying the sailors would be spared no effort to be taught “what it’s like on land,” which they so kindly gave for the new Walter Reed on the grounds of the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda.
The Walter Reed Hospital opened its doors May 1, 1909, with only a handful of patients and a few dozen beds. As two World Wars wounded thousands, the hospital grew to accommodate the injured, and later patients from the Vietnam and Middle East theaters to treat those whose injuries went much deeper than their skin.
American soldiers “lost their arms and limbs, but thanks to you they never lost themselves.”” Mr. McHugh said during the ceremony.
Though the facility on Georgia Avenue includes 72 building across 172 acres in upper Northwest, “there’s no room to expand to meet the changing needs,” said Col. Norvell V. Coots, commander of the Walter Reed Health Care System.
The main health center in Bethesda covers roughly 1 million square feet, Col. Coots said, and will include more than 400 beds. Through August, the patients and employees at the D.C. location will transfer to one of the two health centers. On Friday, Gen. Hawley-Bowland will transfer leadership to Brig. Gen. Joseph Caravalho Jr.
© Copyright 2013 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Meredith Somers is a Metro reporter for The Washington Times. She can be reached at email@example.com.
- Washington honors an 'African son' at Mandela service at National Cathedral
- Maryland makes 'top tier' for its control of guns
- Snow prompts closures in D.C. area, slippery conditions remain
- Troops forced to rely on welfare, holiday charity
- Operation Homefront gives meals to military
Latest Blog Entries
By Mangosuthu Buthelezi
Memories of a long brotherhood tempered in common struggle
- U.S. Navy-China showdown: Chinese try to halt U.S. cruiser in international waters
- Obama birther theories float, as Hawaii health director killed in crash
- Obama's Afghanistan experts stumped on U.S. death toll, war costs during hearing
- House budget bargain faces Senate filibuster; Republicans line up to oppose
- Billy Graham near death, close to going home to be with the Lord
- PRUDEN: The last living witnesses; they wore the yellow star and remember the Nazi terror
- NAPOLITANO: A conspiracy so vast
- American bourbon now better than Scottish whisky: U.K.-born expert
- North Korea's official report on Jang Song Thaek
- Dr. Ben Carson disavows efforts at presidential draft
Independent voices from the The Washington Times Communities
Our Choice: Individual responsibility and self-government or the abandonment of the American Revolution
A stat-head’s outlook, direct from his worn in couch cushion.
John Glaser turns his pen toward foreign policy and international relations around the world
A conservative commentator and satirist takes on the worlds of politics and entertainment in pursuit of truth, justice and all things America.
Extraordinary day at Redskins Park
White House pets gone wild!
Let it snow