Doctors, nurses and patients no longer walk the halls.
The only sounds coming from the old Ireland Army Hospital these days are equipment and operators working to deconstruct the nearly 64-year-old building.
But as they say, if walls could talk — maybe they can.
In response to a story about the facility’s demolition posted on Facebook Dec. 1, 2020, several people shared brief memories of their time and experiences at the hospital in the comments section.
Within a couple of days, 86 comments appeared.
One of those who commented was Janet Moravec.
“The hospital was the main big place,” said Moravec recently. “It seemed like there was very little else on the base.”
Moravec’s husband had graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, in 1982 and was attending the officer basic course the first time they lived at Fort Knox. The second time they lived here was in 1986.
That same year, Moravec gave birth to their first child, Stephanie, at Ireland. Second child Joseph arrived five years later.
“She was my first Kentucky baby,” said Moravec. “Both of my babies are Kentucky babies. The hospital was really nice, and the staff was always very pleasant. They were always going out of their way to help.”
Moravec said the Army post was nothing like it is today. She and Stephanie, now 30, visited the post two years ago. Although much had changed, Moravec was surprised to see the quarters where they had lived still standing.
“We did not recognize the base at all,” said Moravec. “Back in 1986 the hospital was the main place for all medical services. There were always lots of people going in and coming out and long lines. I remember having to get up very early in the morning to phone in for an appointment.”
Moravec said there was very little else around that area of post other than barracks where thousands of Soldiers trained; rows of buildings that no longer exist.
She recalled a practice the hospital had back then of letting women know if they were pregnant.
Women who suspected they might be pregnant would visit the hospital to receive a free numbered pregnancy test. After taking the test and turning it in, they would have to call in later that day to find out if their number was announced as positive for pregnancy. Moravec said she was eager to find out the results when she called that evening.
“You would think I was a Price Is Right contestant. I had a big scream because my number was on the recording at the hospital saying I was pregnant with my first child,” said Moravec. “Of course I told my husband because he came running, thinking something had happened.”
Another person who commented on the Facebook post was Neal Jones. He had attended basic training in 1982 and ended up getting injured during the final combat exercise at the end of his cycle.
“We were dropped off at a point and had to make it back to the safe area. Well, I made it only to find out I was now a [prisoner of war,] wrote Jones later. “They took my shoes, dragged me into a fenced-in area where I ended up with heat exhaustion and was taken by [my] drill sergeant to Ireland hospital.”
He too acknowledged that the staff of the hospital was superb.
“The people were incredible: busy, well-staffed, very friendly, hard workers. After all these years, I still remember the hospital, staff, and the treatment,” wrote Jones. “I was shocked to hear they were tearing down the hospital.”
Tina Leaitu worked at Fort Knox for about 10 years, most recently in the Army Wellness Center. She said her time working as a technician in the operating room of the hospital from 2009-2010, and later in 2010-2013, came to mind when the story appeared on Facebook.
“From the hospitality, the great teamwork, seeing familiar faces within other areas of the hospital, every day building relationships all the way from the cafeteria staff to the housekeeping staff, we built relationships,” said Leaitu, who is known by many as Tina McDonald. “You get to know each other, and I thought that was wonderful because as many years as you work there, you get to know people by name or by description.”
One particular person she fondly remembered working with in 2009 was then Col. Ronald Place, the commander of Ireland at that time. Her introduction to him came when he was looking for a reliable technician to help him perform a hemorrhoidectomy.
“They chose me, and I was so honored to be able to be in that room,” said Leaitu. “I was a fairly new technician then.”
Another memory she had was the ringing of the bell over an intercom when a baby was born.
“There were days we would hear the bell ring a lot, especially after deployments when Soldiers would come home,” said Leaitu. “Nine months later —“
Lisa Luttrell was born in 1962, in what would have been considered at that time as a relatively new facility at Fort Knox.
“I was actually delivered by a Maj. Goodfellow,” said Luttrell. “I was born in February and my father retired with military honors at Fort Knox in October, so I got in just under the wire.”
She said her father stayed in the area, having landed a job as a carpenter for the Defense Department schools. They had to move off post but eventually moved back on post, living in a small apartment above Crittenberger Elementary School.
Her parents told her at one point that they didn’t have to pay for any expenses out of pocket at the hospital when she was born, except one.
“My mother had to pay for her meals,” said Luttrell. “She was in the hospital for one week, and it was $7.62 for the whole week.”
Luttrell said she remained in the hospital for an additional month after weighing only 4 ½ pounds at birth. The family would remain at the post until Luttrell was 14. She talked about many memories of the hospital and Fort Knox during her time growing up at the post, including how the walls were pea green in color.
Now living in Kanas City, Fort Knox is never far from her thoughts.
“When you have fond memories and you have been happy where you’ve grown up or lived,” said Luttrell, “you’re always going to remember.”