After War: The Weight of Life at Walter Reed
A Present History of Fragments
This chapter assembles a newspaper archive to tell a public history of both the injured U.S. soldier body and Walter Reed, a key site from which that image has been projected since World War I. Certain themes recur uncannily over the century of its operation: the geographical and social dislocations of U.S. wars abroad; the possibility that the violence of war can be overcome by the technological promise of rehabilitation; the problematic and essential nature of the injured soldier’s masculinity; the rendering of war injuries as affecting both the body and the mind; the simultaneous expectations that soldiers’ bodies belong both to the nation and to their most intimate kin, and the irresolvable tension between those expectations. The chapter includes images of newspaper pages from the eras of World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the “war on terror,” depicting the public life of Walter Reed.