Nancy L. Meek

WELCOME TO WALTER REED

Amid the rats, the dust and mold,
their stories lay, some still untold,
horrors lived then buried deep,
releasing them a daring leap.

As roaches slip between the cracks,
soldiers languish on their backs;
cold and thirsting for relief;
home, but not: in disbelief.

With missing limbs or broken necks,
some come back to face neglect,
lack of water, heat and care,
stagnant rooms in disrepair.

Sirens blaring, more arrive,
wondering if they will survive
the aftermath of coming home,
the overdoses… left alone.

Battle weary… torn apart,
pleased to serve and do their part,
they wind up in a filthy room
near a street where druggies loom.

One grips a map he cannot read;
hugs a wall; in desperate need
of someone’s outstretched, helping hand,
who, somehow, might just understand.

He’d find his room if shown the way,
though post-op drugs increase his sway
as he slides along a wall outside;
with jellied legs, he cannot hide.

One Vet was told: “You did not serve.”
So, with Purple Heart and steely nerve,
he shoved that medal in her face,
then disappeared without a trace.

Author’s Note: Inspired by the following articles:

Soldiers Face Neglect Frustration At Army’s top Medical Facility

Walter Reed Army Medical Center scandal

Although the article focuses primarily on Building 18 of the medical center, authors Dana Priest and Anne Hull also included complaints of ‘disengaged clerks, unqualified platoon sergeants and overworked managers’ that make navigating the already complicated bureaucracy to obtain medical care at Walter Reed even more daunting.

“The conditions of Building 18 of the Walter Reed Army Medical Center are described in the article as rodent and cockroach infested. Stained carpets, cheap mattresses, and black mold are other signs of neglect. Soldiers staying at Walter Reed have also reported no heat and water. In addition, security is inadequate and ‘soldiers feel especially vulnerable.’ Right outside the unmonitored entry, ‘drug dealers work the corner at night.’ Struggling, injured soldiers, most suffering from PTSD, paranoid delusional disorder and traumatic brain injury, are forced to ‘pull guard duty’ to obtain a level of security.”