10 March 2007


Sister Soldier:
A Chronicle of Life After
Part VII

Over the last few weeks mainstream media has latched onto the Washington Post Walter Reed housing story like a Rotteweiler with a ham bone. As someone who’s been at the WRAMC landmark for a year, periodically caring for my sister/Army Captain Chaplain Stuart who returned from Iraq with Cancer. Even though there is NO excuse for these kinds of conditions at a military installation….building #18 is outside of the 100 acre WRAMC Georgia Ave. compound. And it is apparent Washington Post staffer, Dana Priest has not been allowed behind the black iron gates that house a majority of the 800 soldiers at the Med. Hold Unit. If she had, she and the Washington Post would know it is an isolated incident. And that the manicured WRAMC grounds and buildings are quite lovely, with plush lawns, greenery and flowers, water fountains and Gazebo’s.

The military housing within the compound: The Mologne House [bld. #20] a hotel that hosts 200 double rooms for $70 per night [reimbursed by the monthly $2,000 military housing allowance soldiers receive]. It provides solace for amputee soldiers who are either receiving therapy or awaiting prosthetics to soldiers stricken with Cancer---a home away from home. It has a dining room with a 52 inch television, restaurant, bar, free washers & dryers on every floor, packages delivered to your door, free DVD rentals, complimentary gym/health club access, an area to BBQ, weekly social events, free goods donated daily to the soldiers from local organizations, companies or schools who are trying to do their part in helping the soldiers mend after their traumatic exploitations of war.

The Fisher Houses #2 and #3, along with the guest houses….are no way “deplorable.” Fisher House #3 caters to soldiers with head injuries. Recently remodeled, the kitchen is one you’d find in “Home & Garden.” With counter tops and an island laden with black & white speckled granite, stainless steel appliances and the floors throughout, gleaming hard wood. Down the hill from #2 and #3 is a new track that windes around the woods. A spray of weeping willows hang over as you tread along the cushioned tar, made especially for amputee soldiers with prosthetics. All the while looming over you at the rotary is a stone monument honoring Walter Reed himself in a bronze bust.

They’re well kept buildings, routinely maintained down to replacing mattresses, lamps, DVD players, showerheads, telephones and bathtub liners. And when you request a maintenance man, they’ll usually appear within minutes to hours, eager to fulfill the needs of the soldier. As well as the dependable housekeeping staff, who have gone far beyond their cleaning duties to make sure the soldier is cared for. This attentive treatment can also be found within the hotel and Fisher House management. They make sure the soldier feels comfortable when the situation itself may be bringing them discomfort. And as they experience the pains of being a new Veteran, in the face of uncertainty, their well-being remains a priority for the management, as no request is either too small or too large for them to accommodate.

Even the original Fisher House #1 in Forrest Glenn, Md. 20 minutes from the D.C. compound, is as clean and welcoming as can be, and actually downright homey. It only costs $10 per night and is available for short or long term stays for military families who’s military members are undergoing Cancer treatments at Walter Reed.

Last March, me and my family stayed at this house on the old Water Reed base for two weeks (until a room became available at The Mologne House). And from someone who has actually stayed at both, and not simply interviewed others who have, I would say this grand stone English style home is elegant. It was the first of the Fisher Houses to be built and this 10 double room facility has daily housekeepers, a community washer and dryer, a fully stocked kitchen, dining room, living room, computer nook with Internet and military access to their AKO site [Army Knowledge Online], along with telephones. All included in the $10 per night fee. Sans rats, mold and roaches.

Did I mention that free calling cards are given to you upon check-in at all of the WRAMC housing. Also, the Fisher House Foundation offers you free long-term car rentals from their Yellow Ribbon fund. And if you take one of the free shuttle buses from Fisher House #1 to Walter Reed and visit the Med. FAC Office [Medical Family Assistance Center] on the 2nd floor. The staff there will accommodate your every need, down to free frequent flyer tickets for family members and taxi vouchers to the airport.

The facilities I’ve mentioned above ALL meet those standards…not the sub standard conditions, outside the WRAMC compound at building #18. I must defend the rest of the WRAMC military housing facilities, since what Priest describes simply is not true clear across the board.

Although, I will agree on the other issues, there is a disorganization amongst Med. Hold [Medical Hold] case workers when it comes to caring for the soldiers in a business sense: phone calls go unanswered, housing allowance is late to commence, mail and paper work are lost, unfair treatment of ill or wounded soldiers by the PEB [Physical Evaluation Board] and MEB [Medical Evaluation Board] boards, when compensating them with percentages for Temporary Medical Retirement, Medical Retirement, or Medical Discharge. And some Med Hold staff are downright rude and argumentative towards the sick or the convalescent soldiers, who are merely there in transition while undergoing treatments. Those are factors, but I’ve always managed to help my sister resolve them the old fashion way….go to their superiors, which I’ve done numerous times to rectify Army red tape.

Alas….the more severe concerns at stake with this war is still undergoing a media blackout; while on tour in Iraq and Afghanistan, soldiers are being exposed to depleted Uranium [AKA enriched Uranium]. And unbeknownst to the public, selectively ignored by the DoD and mainstream media—some soldiers are returning with rare stage IV Cancers….now that’s newsbreaking. But it appears, a NY freelance writer isn't allowed to break it, the Washington Post editors, Craig Stolz and Curt Fields [E-mails 9-29-06], feel that exclusive story holds too much “controversy” for a non-staffer. I guess “deplorable living conditions” wasn’t controversial enough for them….

Copyright, 2007 R. B. STUART. All rights reserved. No reproduction of this blog in any form.

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