Posted at 02:33 PM ET, 07/25/2011

Walter Reed closing its doors after 102 years

In this August 1960 file photo, presidential candidate Richard M. Nixon is visited by Sens. Lyndon Johnson and Everett Dirksen. Nixon spent two weeks at Walter Reed recovering from a bacterial staph infection. (AP via Walter Reed Army Medical Center)
After more than a century of treating the war’s wounded and Washington’s most powerful people, Walter Reed Army Medical Center will close its doors and move to a new facility in Bethesda.

Since 1909, war-weary soldiers from World War I and after and presidents such as Dwight Eisenhower have lived or died there. Nurses in the Vietnam war era were said to marry their patients there. There were champagne parties for triple amputees.

But in 2005, a government commission voted to close the facility and move it elsewhere as part of a large cost-cutting plan. Two years later, a Washington Post investigation revealed that the patients were having to endure substandard living conditions and faced all kinds of red tape in getting treatment.

On Wednesday, former and current patients and Walter Reed employees will finally say goodbye during a ceremony on the grounds. Most of the moving will take place in August.

Of the countless musicians who have been inspired to write songs about Walter Reed, Michael Penn’s may be best remembered.

“I've had my fill of palm trees/And lighting up Grauman's Chinese,” he sings. “Tell me now, what more do you need?/Take me to Walter Reed tonight/Baby I've lost the will for fighting/Over everything.”

Listen to it below:

By  |  02:33 PM ET, 07/25/2011

Read what others are saying

    © 2011 The Washington Post Company