Tuesday, July 26, 2011


So tomorrow is the closing ceremony of an icon--Walter Reed Army Medical Center. The colors of this icon will be forever cased. That's right. Soon, this iconic hospital of all that is Army medicine will close it's doors forever. As crazy as it sounds, I feel honored to be living in this area at the close of Walter Reed and bear witness to such a momentuous occasion. To me, as a nurse, it is such a definining moment in Army medicine. Walter Reed has always been the "be all, end all" to the Army medical system. It was the place that our wounded warriors came straight from that we would receive in Georgia at the smaller MEDDAC where I worked before the move. Now it is the venue of the beginning of my husband's career as an Army nurse. My younger daughter and I went out to the hospital today so that I could get immunization records updated as I am returning to school (I guess I'll be a perpetual student in some form or another.) We walked through "the tunnel" to the "old" Walter Reed. As I transitioned from the new building to the building that once housed patients in days gone by, I was humbled at the thought of the footsteps that had come before ours. My mind automatically shifted to my grandmother who is 89 years old. I have spent countless hours listening to the stories of old told by her, my grandfather and her siblings. One of these stories was about my Great Uncle Robert. Uncle Robert was a patient at the "old" Walter Reed many, many years ago after WWII. He was a patient there for a long time. My grandmother and her siblings would ride a bus from Alabama all the way to Washington DC to stay with Uncle Robert. At some point, the family was called to stay with him around the clock. This went on for months. They were on a first-name basis with the nurses and staff. Perhaps they stayed somewhere like what is now Fisher House. My grandmother has spoken countless times of them having lodging nearby and the good food they always had while staying with Uncle Robert. My grandmother has told me about coming in one door and walking out of another (thinking she was walking out of the same door) and ending up on a completely different street block. Trust me, getting turned around in DC is not that difficult. It's funny because older people tend to tell us the same stories over and over and more frequently as they age. To some, it's annoying to hear the same stories. To me, it just reinforces my heritage. My mother has actually recorded some of these stories. They are priceless. When we found out we were coming up here last year as the first duty station after my husband graduated nursing school, I was none too happy. My grandmother went on and on about what a fabulous place Walter Reed is. I don't think she realized that the hospital she knew was now a collage of offices, a library, a small PX and other necessary adjuncts to the hospital but nonetheless, I cannot help but think of her everytime I go through the tiny gate onto the property of Walter Reed. I took my parents to see the old Walter Reed during their visit and my mother and I, along with my daughter and nephew have stood on the steps together of the place where my grandmother and her siblings spent so much time--cried so many tears--shared so many hugs with their brother before he passed. So there have been officially 4 generations to walk in those footsteps--my grandmother, my mother, me and my daughter and my nephew. How wonderful to have that legacy!

Uncle Robert passed away with his loving family around him just on the otherside of this tunnel through which we passed today. Wow..and all these years later, here we are walking where maybe he walked, where my grandmother and her brothers and sisters walked and so many after them...

So my daughter and I finished our business in the old Walter Reed and transitioned through this tunnel back into the new hospital that very soon will be also known as the "old" Walter Reed. Again, I was humbled at the footsteps in this building. Now, some of those footsteps include my husband's and friends that I have met and have grown to care for dearly. I try to explain to my little daughter at the legacies in these two buildings and although I am not sure she understands, I plan on through the stories she will hear over and over as the years go by, I hope that someday she will also feel the same humble pride that I feel.

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