Bush Visits Injured Soldiers at Walter Reed

By Dan Eggen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, December 23, 2008

President Bush made what is expected to be his final trip as commander in chief to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Northwest Washington yesterday, where he visited soldiers wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan and also had a personal medical appointment.

Bush, 62, had a magnetic-resonance imaging scan done on his left shoulder, which had been causing him pain. The White House physician determined that there was no serious injury and that only a cortisone shot was required, officials said.

Bush met with 13 patients at Walter Reed during the visit, and presented seven of them with Purple Hearts. He also met with the family of a patient who is staying in the hospital's intensive-care unit, officials said.

"I oftentimes say being commander in chief of the military is the thing I'll miss the most," Bush told reporters after the visit. "Coming here to Walter Reed is a reminder of why I'll miss it."

It was Bush's 16th trip to Walter Reed. He has also visited wounded troops nine times at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda and made an appearance at a private medical facility for injured soldiers in San Antonio.

Walter Reed became a symbol of shoddy care and deplorable conditions for soldiers recovering from injuries suffered in Iraq and Afghanistan after an investigative series was published in The Washington Post. The articles documented that wounded soldiers were housed in a dilapidated building amid mold, rot, leaky ceilings, cockroaches and mice, and had to navigate impossible red tape in an effort to get proper care.

The scandal prompted congressional hearings and led to the firings of the Army secretary and two generals.

Bush, who apologized for the problems during a visit to Walter Reed in March 2007, said yesterday that "every time I come here, I get amazed at the quality of care, the professionalism and the courage of our troops."

"I can say with certainty that the health care that our troops get in our military medical facilities is excellent," he said. "I am so pleased to hear from spouses and other loved ones about the care they get."

White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said that Bush underwent the MRI after experiencing pain in his left shoulder, and that the scan showed no serious injury. White House physician Richard J. Tubb administered a cortisone injection to relieve the pain, Johndroe said.

When asked how his shoulder was after his visit, Bush told reporters it was in "good shape."

"It's about an 80-mile-per-hour fastball," he added jokingly.

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