President Bush led a ground breaking ceremony on Thursday for the new medical facility that will replace the troubled Walter Reed Hospital. Walter Reed will merge with Bethesda Naval Hospital on a huge campus outside Washington, D.C. Construction will be completed in three years. VOA's Ravi Khanna has more.
The new Walter Reed National Military Medical Center will merge the existing Army facility in Washington, D.C. with the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda.
Walter Reed Hospital came under harsh criticism last year. A newspaper reported that long term housing there had mold and was infested with rats and insects. Also, soldiers back from Iraq had to struggle to get medical appointments.
Thursday, President Bush said it is crucial to care for soldiers who have been wounded in the Iraq war.
"In this war, giving our troops the care they deserve requires cutting edge medical facilities, and that is what this new medical center will provide," President Bush said.
The nearly $1 billion campus will merge the resources of the Army, Navy and Air Force and make it easier for medical professionals across the services to collaborate and treat patients.
"At this new center, the Americans who fight for our freedom will get the compassion and support they deserve," the president added. "This new medical center will be a place of courage. Our wounded warriors show that while the human body is fragile, the human spirit is strong."
Traumatic brain injuries have plagued U.S. soldiers in Iraq. Air Force Staff Sergeant Scott Lily suffered from one in Iraq. Lily was present at the ceremony.
President Bush had this to say about Lily:
"I think it was last Fourth of July that you came to the White House. I was one who felt this guy has no chance. And yet the doctors here used the state of the art technology, an aggressive treatment to get Scott better... He is now back on active duty in the Air Force, and we are glad you are here."
President Bush told the troops he prays the new center will be where the lame walk again, where broken bodies are made whole, and where soldiers know they are in the hearts of the American people.