The first wounded and injured American soldiers and Marines to reach the Washington area since the outbreak of fighting in Iraq arrived last night at Andrews Air Force Base.
Five soldiers were taken to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Northwest Washington, and four Marines were taken to the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda.
None of the soldiers spoke to reporters, but all arrived "in good spirits" after a flight from Germany, where they had been treated at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, one of the military's largest overseas hospitals, a Walter Reed official said.
At Walter Reed, two of the soldiers were carefully taken off a specially fitted bus on stretchers. One lay, eyes closed, with a brown teddy bear beside him.
Two others, in blue pajamas, their limbs in splints or casts, moved haltingly under their own power. All four had injuries to their extremities, and one also had an abdominal injury, officials said. A fifth soldier arrived at the hospital separately, officials said.
It was not clear how the soldiers incurred their wounds, but they were of a nature that is "to be expected with combat operations," a hospital official said.
"They've weathered the trip well," said Army Maj. Gen. Kevin C. Kiley, the medical center's commanding officer.
Among the few comments they made on arrival was that the "flight was great and they ate a lot," Kiley said.
A spokesman for the Bethesda hospital said three of the Marines walked into the facility, and one was brought in on a litter. Navy hospitals provide medical care for wounded Marines.
"They are getting checked in and settled," said Lt. Cmdr. Jerry Rostad.
One of the Marines who walked off the bus was met by almost a dozen relatives at Bethesda.
The Marine, who appeared to have an arm injury, seemed to be in "real good spirits," Rostad said. "You could just tell that he was glad to see his family.
"We're going to get these guys settled down and take really good care of them" and restore them to full health as soon as possible, Rostad said.
A variety of factors can cause a patient to be brought back to the United States for treatment, including the need for specialized care not available elsewhere in the military medical system, Rostad said. He said it is not necessarily an indicator of the severity of wounds.
A spokesman for Andrews Air Force Base said the wounded and injured arrived about 7:30 p.m. on a four-engine Air Force C-141. The Bethesda spokesman said another flight from Germany was expected to arrive tomorrow.