Confusion at Walter Reed | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Confusion at Walter Reed

The Washington Post ran an amazing two-part series about the lack of follow-up care for soldiers returning from war to Walter Reed Hospital over the weekend. It's written by really a journalistic dream team of Dana Priest (She won the Pulitzer last year for her pieces on "black site" prisons) and Anne Hull (who, I think, is easily the best narrative writer in journalism. She's a magic worker, just truly astounding).

The Pentagon has announced plans to close Walter Reed by 2011, but that hasn't stopped the flow of casualties. Three times a week, school buses painted white and fitted with stretchers and blackened windows stream down Georgia Avenue. Sirens blaring, they deliver soldiers groggy from a pain-relief cocktail at the end of their long trip from Iraq via Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany and Andrews Air Force Base.

Staff Sgt. John Daniel Shannon, 43, came in on one of those buses in November 2004 and spent several weeks on the fifth floor of Walter Reed's hospital. His eye and skull were shattered by an AK-47 round. His odyssey in the Other Walter Reed has lasted more than two years, but it began when someone handed him a map of the grounds and told him to find his room across post.

A reconnaissance and land-navigation expert, Shannon was so disoriented that he couldn't even find north. Holding the map, he stumbled around outside the hospital, sliding against walls and trying to keep himself upright, he said. He asked anyone he found for directions.

Seriously, read this story. This is what journalism is capable of. It is more than responding to news, more than spot pieces or Britney's bald new look. It's the chance to really show the public something it is incapable of seeing on its own.

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