The Washington Post sent reporters to the famed Walter Reed Army Medical Center to talk with wounded outpatients and their families. They did not seek nor did they get official “permission” to do so, but they weren’t under cover either.
“Behind the door of Army Spec. Jeremy Duncan's room, part of the wall is torn and hangs in the air, weighted down with black mold. When the wounded combat engineer stands in his shower and looks up, he can see the bathtub on the floor above through a rotted hole. The entire building, constructed between the world wars, often smells like greasy carry-out. Signs of neglect are everywhere: mouse droppings, belly-up cockroaches, stained carpets, cheap mattresses.
"This is the world of Building 18, not the kind of place where Duncan expected to recover when he was evacuated to Walter Reed Army Medical Center from Iraq last February with a broken neck and a shredded left ear, nearly dead from blood loss. But the old lodge, just outside the gates of the hospital and five miles up the road from the White House, has housed hundreds of maimed soldiers recuperating from injuries suffered in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
The two-part series ought to put to rest once and for all the sanctimonious jabber from Republicans that we need to send more troops to get maimed and killed in order to honor the ones who already have been.
Today’s installment focuses on wounded Cpl. Dell McLeod and his wife, Annette.
“Army doctors are disputing that Dell's head injury was the cause of his mental impairment. One report says that he was slow in high school and that his cognitive problems could be linked to his native intelligence rather than to his injury.
"They said, 'Well, he was in Title I math,' like he was retarded," Annette says. "Well, y'all took him, didn't you?"”
I didn’t read the series until I got home from a weekend trip. On the flight home, I sat next to a woman who didn’t speak much, except for her urgent cell phone conversations before takeoff.
It turns out she was flying from Phoenix, through Dallas, to Washington National Airport, where a limo would take her to Dulles International Airport for a flight to Germany to visit her husband. Four days earlier, she was told he had a medical condition while serving in Iraq. Two days later, she was informed he was wounded, on ventilation and heavily sedated.
It was not a time to talk about the things I read about today. I offered all I could -- my sympathies, and a packet of Kleenex.