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Profile: Walter Reed Army Medical Center
Walter Reed Army Medical Center was a participant or observer in the following events:
Walter Reed Army Medical Center. [Source: US Army]The Walter Reed Army Medical Center (WRAMC) in Washington, DC suffers a four-day power loss following an electrical transformer fire on August 27. Backup generators ensure patient care is minimally affected, but as a precaution 77 of the hospital’s roughly 100 patients are moved to other facilities until it regains full power. Most go to the National Naval Medical Center (NNMC) in Bethesda. According to Capt. Tom Sizemore, the acting commander of the NNMC, precautionary measures are necessary due to the size of the patient transfer. So on August 28 he sets the hospital into a mass casualty condition. Usually such a condition is only set in response to a major incident with many seriously injured people. Sizemore says, “This most unfortunate opportunity has provided NNMC with a very special opportunity. We were able to exercise our response system, with real patients, but (thank God) not with patients involved in some mass disaster.” [Stripe, 8/31/2001; Bethesda Journal, 9/6/2001; Stripe, 9/6/2001; Office of Medical History, 9/2004, pp. 146] Walter Reed is about six miles from the Pentagon, and its ambulance teams will respond to the attack there on September 11. Many believe that coping with the power failure helps prepare them for this. One member of staff later says, “A lot of the procedures that we used in the September 11 tragedy, we had just come out of this power loss where we had implemented a lot of what we did. We had good procedures in place that we had already just executed. It was really eerie.” [NurseWeek, 9/17/2001; Office of Medical History, 9/2004, pp. 145-146] A similar incident also occurs around this time at DeWitt Army Community Hospital at Fort Belvoir, an army base roughly 12 miles south of the Pentagon. The details of this are unspecified. [Stripe, 9/20/2001] Ambulance teams from DeWitt will also be involved in the emergency response to the Pentagon attack. [Office of Medical History, 9/2004, pp. i]
Medical workers at the first triage area set up outside the Pentagon after it is attacked. [Source: Mark D. Faram / US Navy]Soon after the Pentagon is hit, medical workers initiate their mass casualty plan (MASCAL) for dealing with disasters. Sergeant Matthew Rosenberg, a medic at the Pentagon’s DiLorenzo Tricare Health Clinic, arrives at the center courtyard. Seeing smoke rising from the side of the building and patients staggering out, he radios the clinic: “You need to initiate MASCAL right now! We have mass casualties! I need medical assets to the courtyard!” Major Lorie Brown, chief nurse of the DiLorenzo Clinic, says that as soon as she sees people running down the corridor to evacuate, “we initiated the MASCAL, started galvanizing all of our assets and put our plan in action.” [Washington Post, 9/16/2001; Office of Medical History, 9/2004, pp. 7, 39] The Pentagon has actually conducted at least three MASCAL training exercises in the previous 12 months, based around a plane crashing into the place (see October 24-26, 2000)(see May 2001)(see Early August 2001). Lieutenant Colonel John Felicio, the deputy commander for administration of the DiLorenzo Clinic, says, “The saving grace to our efforts was the two MASCAL exercises we previously had conducted.… Our scenario for both MASCALS was a plane flying into the Pentagon courtyard.” Furthermore, the nearby Walter Reed Army Medical Center (WRAMC), which sends ambulances in response to the attack, has recently recovered from a four-day power loss (see August 27-31, 2001). A military report will later state: “Many believe that [this] extended emergency… helped WRAMC in its response on September 11.” [Office of Medical History, 9/2004, pp. 18, 146]
Cher talks with a wounded soldier at Landstuhl Medical Center in Germany. [Source: Todd Goodman / US Army]Cher, the celebrity singer and actress, calls in to a morning C-SPAN talk show broadcast. She calls anonymously to discuss her recent visit to the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, where she visited with soldiers wounded in Iraq. She praises the courage and resilience of the soldiers, many of whom have suffered horrific wounds. After she admits to being an entertainer who has worked with the USO, C-SPAN host Peter Slen realizes who she is, and asks, “Is this Cher?” She replies, “Yeah,” and continues to discuss the troops and their “unbelievable courage.” Shortly thereafter, she says: “I wonder why [Dick] Cheney, [Paul] Wolfowitz, [Paul] Bremer, the president—why aren’t they taking pictures with all these guys?… Talking about the dead and wounded, that’s two different things. But these wounded are so devastatingly wounded.… It’s unbelievable. You know, if you’re going to send these people to war, then don’t hide them.… Have some news coverage where people are sitting and talking to these guys and seeing how they are and seeing their spirit. It’s just—I think it’s a crime.” [Village Voice, 11/5/2003; Carter, 2004, pp. 65-66] Shortly after the Walter Reed visit, Cher will become heavily involved in working with wounded veterans through organizations such as Operation Helmet and the Intrepid Fund. She will say of her activism: “I don’t have to be for this war to support the troops because these men and women do what they think is right. They do what they’re told to do. They do it with a really good heart. They do the best they can. They don’t ask for anything.… I can’t speak for everyone, but everyone seems to be against the war but not realizing that that’s not good enough. You’ve got to do something besides just be against it. You’ve got to do some helping as well.” [Stars and Stripes, 7/16/2006]
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