The National Museum of Health and Medicine

Washington, D.C.

A grave mood lies just beyond the fortified security gates that split the eight-foot wrought iron fence surrounding the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Located in northwest Washington, D.C., Walter Reed is home to a hospital that is “the clinical center of gravity of American military medicine,” according to themselves, and to the National Museum of Health and Medicine, which was established during the Civil War to document, study, and improve medicine, with a particular focus on military medicine. The boxy, corporate-looking concrete compound looming off Georgia Avenue looks like any other 1960s or ’70s government building in the capital, and security checkpoints have become entirely ubiquitous around Washington—but it’s the hospital’s patients and residents walking around the campus on a warm spring day that first establish the somber milieu. They are young, often legless, armless, or otherwise seriously injured members of the Army, out to catch a breath of fresh air or to travel between the hospital’s several buildings. They are here, returned from a long military mission abroad, injured but still alive, hopefully on their way home. They are staying now in a hospital where America’s scientific and technological facilities are turned away from the enemy and the destruction of the battlefield, and toward their physical and mental recuperation.

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—Brian H. Kehrl

Brian H. Kehrl, the former editor of Sifter magazine, is an editorial assistant at Boston Review.

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