Walter Reed: My Family Doctor

by oldschoolrules

Changes at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center site in northwest Washington, D.C., will be interesting to watch.  Retail is in its future, among other things, and as an avid shopper, I guess that’s a good thing.  But WRAMC holds a special place in my heart and memory, and even the prospect of more retail therapy within walking distance pales by comparison to that ancient nostalgia.  Maybe its time to blog about it and let it go, along with the place it was born.

Back in August of 2005, the Department of Defense proposed replacing Walter Reed – the 113-acre campus of the only U.S. armed forces medical center located in the District of Columbia – with a new-and-improved, more cost effective center on the grounds of the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.  Given crises in budget, employment, health care, research and other issues of national importance, it’s good to know that the new and expanded medical center plans to address those matters.  I hope that there will be plenty of jobs to go around at the new center, and also that taking such a large hospital out of the mix in D.C. won’t create a deficit in health care or employment for my city’s residents.

The hospital was named for Maj. Walter Reed, M.D., a young U.S. Army surgeon from Virginia (his record as the youngest UVA student to receive an M.D. – at age 17 – has never been broken).  Dr. Reed’s research on yellow fever changed the course of medical and military history.  The facility, originally named Walter Reed General Hospital, opened in May 1909, seven years after Dr. Reed’s death.

After more than a century of service, Walter Reed as we know it will close, on Wednesday, July 27, 2011.  Its swan song is a Doobie Brothers concert on the lawn.  I plan to be at the closing-day ceremony.  It will be my first time at a Doobie Brothers show, and I’m trying to work up an appetite for “Listen to the Music” and “Black Water.”  I would have preferred the Marine Corps jazz band, but I guess the Doobie Brothers have greater appeal for the troops.

My hope is that they’ll also find someone who can blow “Taps” on a non-electric bugle.  For me, “Taps” is the right way to say goodbye to Walter Reed.  Both my parents are buried at Arlington National Cemetery, and I associate that plaintive tune with saying goodbye to family members.  I visit their grave a couple of times a year, braving the tourists looking at Kennedy’s eternal flame, the Tomb of the Unknowns or Civil War gravestones.  But Arlington isn’t Walter Reed.  Long before it occurred to me that I would one day wear black to that high hill, Walter Reed was part of our family.  Like all families, there were relationships among us, and each of us had our own relationship to Walter Reed Hospital.

For the next couple of blogs, I’ll be writing about those stories as I recall them.  Today’s OldSchoolRules are:  “Honor thy father and thy mother,” and “Don’t regret the past, nor close the door on it.”

Thanks for reading… keep in touch.