Remarks by Secretary Pete Geren at Centennial Ceremony of Walter Reed Army Medical Center
May 8, 2009
May 1, 2009
Thank you General Schoomaker and General McCaffrey.
General Schoomaker spent more then a decade here early in his career - first as a hematologist at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research and later as Assistant Chief of the Department of Medicine.
And General McCaffrey is no stranger to Army medicine either. Over the course of his four separate combat tours he has been awarded two Distinguished Service Cross's, two Silver Stars and the Purple Heart three times before coming home to become the youngest General in the US Army. And while serving as our nations "Drug Czar" his work to stem the tide of illegal drugs saved countless American lives and contributed greatly to our national security.
I would also like to recognize some of the other great leader who are joining us today; Mr. Paul Wolfowitz, former Deputy Secretary of Defense; Gen. William M. Fraser III, Vice Chief of Staff Air Force; the recently retired Dr. S Ward Casscells, former Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs, and Ms. Ellen Embrey, who has temporarily stepped into those large shoes; LTG James Roudebush Surgeon General of the Air Force; LTG (Ret) Ronald Blanck, Former Surgeon General of the Army; BG (Ret) Michael Kussman , a former Commander here and current Undersecretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs and GEN Gordon R. Sullivan (Ret.), former Chief of Staff of the Army and current president of the Association of the United States Army (ASUA).
Extraordinary leaders all. It is a privilege to share this occasion with you.
And to share it with all those who serve with our Military Health System, both in and out of uniform - the doctors, nurses, administrators, support staff, and volunteers serving here at Walter Reed and at all the military treatment facilities around the world.
It is truly an honor to share this occasion with you - commemorate the last 100 years and launch the next century of service.
We are not here to honor bricks and mortar - but to honor men and women- men and women who devote their lives to the service of others.
Today - most places - medical care is all about business - Army medicine is all about service - and always has been. Today we honor a century of that service.
The venerable institution we celebrate today had modest beginnings - with little to suggest it would become the pre-eminent institution known around the world today. Walter Reed began as "Bordon's Dream" after Major William Cline Bordon, an Army doctor and the last person to operate on Maj. Walter Reed before his death. In 1905 Major Bordon lobbied congress for $300,000 needed to buy this land and build a hospital here. When a Senator told him his hopes were a "pipe dream" he redoubled his efforts, and on this day in 1909 "Bordon's Dream" became a reality.
Today, Walter Reed is America's hospital. In addition to serving our Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine service members and their families, Walter Reed has provided care to six United States Presidents as well as dozens of members of Congress and cabinet officials. It is where Generals Pershing and MacArthur as well as President Eisenhower drew their last breath. And in 2011, when we close the doors of this facility, both its name and legacy will live on at the new Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda. The men and woman who are Walter Reed will continue their outstanding service.
Major Walter Reed would have been very proud of his name-sake, and more then a little surprised at all the attention. His career was one of humility, service and sacrifice- Army hallmarks. He changed the world for the better- another Army hallmark.
Major Walter Reed was known both for his intellect and his unwavering devotion to duty. Born in 1851 in Belroi, Virginia, by the age of 20, Dr. Reed had earned medical degrees from the University of Virginia in Charlottesville and New York University's Bellevue Hospital Medical College. At 24 he joined the Army as an assistant surgeon and had postings in some of the most remote regions of the American western frontier. In the early part of his military career he treated Geronimo, studied physiology at Johns Hopkins University in his spare time and personally delivered his two children. His daughter Emily Reed, who was known by all as "Blossom" and his son Walter Lawrence Reed who became a two star Army General.
Major Reed was a physician, a professor and a scientist and made contributions across a wide range of what we now would call medical specialties. But it was in 1900, 109 years ago this month that Major Reed embarked on the project that would prove to be one of the most important achievements in the history of medicine.
Reed and his team traveled to Cuba in June of 1900 and after a year of experimentation and analysis discovered the secret to the transmission of yellow fever. This advance saved the lives of untold numbers of soldiers and millions of people around the world.
One hundred years ago today, his namesake - Water Reed General Hospital - opened its doors and admitted10 patients - last year you admitted 10,000.
For a century you have stepped up when duty called. In 1917 with Doughboys fighting the war to end all wars, Walter Reed expanded from 80 beds to 2500. With the onset of WWII, Walter Reed again answered the call and expanded its capacity three fold; added over 30 permanent and temporary structures and cared for thousands wounded service members.
Since 9/11 you have again risen to the challenge. You have taken care of 10,000 soldiers returning from Afghanistan and Iraq - providing lifesaving medical care- and life transforming rehabilitation and support.
And, year in, year out - provided care for the families of our soldiers.
Your century of steady and dedicated service includes many memorable events and accomplishments. They began in 1909 when you opened your doors as a modern state-of-art facility- offering X-ray's, heating, an electric elevator and even indoor plumbing. In 1923 Walter Reed became the home of the Army medical School- becoming the first full service "Army Medical Center". In 1951 medical history was made here as Dr. Ogden Bruton discovered and pioneered the treatment of immunodeficiency diseases. In 1962 Walter Reed's Army Institute of Research switched on the first medical nuclear reactor- a device that would provide new insights into nuclear medicine and its applications.
Those are significant events and on this anniversary we recall them - as we should. But it was not how Walter Reeds reputation was built - it was not the signal event or events that established the true legacy we honor today. We honor a legacy that was built one patient at a time - one soldier - a husband, a wife or a child - maybe a private or a general officer - maybe even the President of the United States. Men, women and children who came here in their moment of need and got the very best care, support and love the men and women who are Walter Reed could provide.
That is the legacy of Walter Reed.
To you, the men and women of Walter Reed - all of the men and women of Army medicine - we recognize you today - honor you and all those who came before you - and know that Major Water Reed's and your legacy is safe with those who will come after you.
Army medicine - it is all about service.