Recently I spent a few days at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center as the start of what I hope will be a continuing project. I’m going to be continually profiling the military life through images and possibly even start doing some casual interviews/talks with people. The idea here is to give a behind the scenes look at a place many don’t get to see and show it through my own eyes and hands.
Much off the time I’m not able to get the names of those I catch in passing and only have a few seconds or minutes to show something that I found important during my time on scene. Some I hope to get to know at some point through this project, but others I know I’ll never have a chance to chat with and get to know them.
Medium will change around as I find the right medium for the moment and make a change depending on what’s working at the time. It’s much less about a coherent set of images than getting a well rounded report of the things I’m seeing. Each drawing and image becomes a stand alone story within an overarching narrative.
In some cases I find that objects help to tell the story of a place as well as the people around them. These things, in the case of the image above an ICU waiting room clock, stand silent witness to the events around them.
Environments are just as important to the story of those who work every day in them. Many times I find myself drawn to a few lines of a place, and just have to get them down on paper. Others it’s the importance of the place itself. The ICU scene above is one of the few times where it was both.
In the end though, this project is all about the people and what they do, why they do it, and doing my best to show them as they are doing it. In the case of a place like Walter Reed, it’s mission is the health and welfare of members of the armed forces. The main focus of that being wounded service members coming from war zones. LTJG Cassandra Aebersold (seen above) is one of the many tasked with taking care of service members and their families in the ICU, where many of the med-evac’s (Medical Evacuations) end up when returning to the states after being critically wounded in combat.
Architecture always catches me when I’m on scene and some spaces have special meaning. The above drawing is in the ‘America’ building which houses many specialty health care clinics some particular places hold special significance, the wounded warrior rehab area being one.
Being a wounded soldier, I want to shed additional light on some of the people who have made incredible sacrifices for the well being of others. You can’t walk around Walter Reed without seeing those sacrifices first hand. Missing legs and arms, not to mention various shrapnel injuries are common. Even having been wounded myself, I find my own life and the importance of chance being put in perspective.
Getting to tell more of the story of the wounded isn’t easy, but beginning with those that do the job day in and day out is as good a place to start as any. LCDR Dave Goodrich is one of those people. His job revolves around coordinating for and picking up those wounded in combat just days prior in Afghanistan.
There are so many on medical professionals on staff at Walter Reed, it’s not remotely possible I’ll be able to tell every story or even give an unbiased showing of all the different jobs people do there. Even on a single floor I’ll never get the chance to sit down with every person and get to know them well enough. Quick snapshots of many are all I’ll ever have the chance to get.
Maybe showing the things around them will allow me to show a few of the visual cues of who these individuals are in addition to shedding light on the setting they work in.
This project stems mostly from my wife’s work as a Navy Nursing Officer. Her own ambitions have set the stage for many of the things I find myself drawn to. Though I’m sure our experiences during my time in the Army has something to do with her own desire to be on the forefront of military medical care.
It’s going to be interesting to get to know the Marines more and more as this project progresses and our family gets stationed with them more over time. It’s a different culture than the one I became accustomed to in the Army, but having been combat arms I’m sure there are more similarities than differences. There have to be many more between Army and Marines than Marines and the Navy. Walter Reed being a conglomeration of all of the armed forces, these culture differences are easier to find out about here than anywhere else.
These drawings all come from just before the holiday break for many. The band was on hand to help bring a little holiday cheer to everyone waiting for their various appointments and I had to take a little time to catch them doing what they do. I have only been privy to military bands a handful of times, always during a memorable experience. The last of which was my return home from Iraq.
A lot of places hold a certain mood depending on the time you happen upon them. Some places you just wish you could spend more time than you have. Mercy Hall is a place that I hope to spend more time around and getting to know the many who call it home for the time being.
That’s all for now, but I’m planning many more trips on post to tell more of the story that happens every day there.
Interested in helping the wounded? I’m currently fundraising for the Wounded Warrior Project through the Tough Mudder race I’ll be running in May. To donate, go here to my fundraising page and give what you can.
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