Bethesda Naval Hospital: Our First Visit

How It All Began

Originally written June 25, 2007; Edited December 14, 2013.

Jane and Janelle
Jane and Janelle
Summer of 2005

We are Marine Moms. When each of our sons became a Recruit, completed The Crucible, and received his hard-earned Eagle, Globe and Anchor, we didn’t know it at the time, but we became a part of the United States Marine Corps Family. Eventually we connected to others in the Marine Family who, like us, supported their loved ones when they became One of the Few and the Proud.

Marines Take Care of Their Own, and we are Marine Moms taking care of our Sons by another Mother.

Our first visit to Bethesda Naval Hospital was in October 2005 during our sons’ second deployment to Iraq. We were visiting the Mom of a wounded Marine, who was 3000 miles from home by her son’s side. We wanted to let her know we cared and to let her friends back home know she was okay and that her son was receiving the best care possible – be their eyes for them since they couldn’t be there in person. We knew it could easily have been our son.

We made contact with this mom, made some cookies to take with us, fixed up some gift bags for her Marine and a few others we knew of who were there, a gift basket for her, and off we went. We had no idea what to expect.

We rode the elevator up to the floor they were on, the doors opened, and as we entered the corridor, the first thing I felt were the prayers…. I felt like I had walked into a wall of prayers.

Prayers being said by the families for their loved ones, prayers from people all over our country being said for these wounded Heroes… It is a feeling that I find extremely hard to describe with words to someone who has never been there. If you have been there, you know exactly what I am talking about.

At first glance, calm and hushed… after a pause, there is the feeling of a quiet intensity going on, an undercurrent of prayers, of hope, of healing. And this is when I began to realize that Miracles Happen at Bethesda.

The strength and the bravery of the families, Marines, and Sailors we met that day made a lasting impression on us. We knew we wanted to do whatever we could to help the families during this stressful time and make their stay at Bethesda a little bit brighter. We wanted to let them know that they were not forgotten and that people cared.

We returned a few weeks later, this time with a meal for the patients and their families – lasagna, garlic bread, salad, fresh fruit, cheese and crackers, desserts, letters and cards of encouragement – all donated or made possible by family, co-workers, and friends from across the country and much appreciated by all who were there. To our delight, the young men we had met on our first visit were steadily progressing in the recovery from their wounds.

One thing we have noticed is how much a small show of appreciation and caring means to the families and to the patients.

We have visited a number of times now to do luncheons. The patients and families are amazed people they’ve never met would think of them, bring a meal, give them gift baskets full of goodies, and donate items for their sons.

Our hearts have gone out to these families and their wounded heroes whose lives are forever changed. We have lost touch with most of the folks we’ve met, but sometimes we hear through the grapevine how some of these young men are doing. We celebrate in their recovery and we wish them all the best.

We have seen first hand how “Miracles Happen at Bethesda”.

December 2013

We’ve also seen that sometimes the “miracle” is a Marine, Soldier or Sailor making it back to the States from the hospital in Landstuhl, Germany after being wounded in combat… living long enough for his family to say good bye to him in the intensive Care Unit at Bethesda/Walter Reed.

I don’t think any of us thought the war would still be going on this many years later.  It’s been a long road for many… and it continues long after they transition back into civilian life.

Some things have stayed the same – the perseverance, fortitude, and courage of the men and women, and their families, we meet at our luncheons as they move forward in their recovery from catastrophic war injuries is both inspiring and humbling.

Some things have changed.

Janelle lost her son, Cpl. Justin James Watts, USMC, in Iraq in January 2006.  Never Forgotten.

My son completed his active duty in January 2007.

Walter Reed Army Medical Center and Bethesda Naval Hospital combined through BRAC in September 2011 and is now called Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

There is a lot more support now than there was in 2005 for the warriors and their families.

The Rules of Engagement (ROE) are more stringent now, in 2013, than they were in 2005…

Sometimes I wonder how many fewer limbs lost there would be if the ROE had stayed the same… and how many Mothers’  Stars “turned Gold” because of the changes…


Bringing "Comforts of Home" to Bethesda (now Walter Reed NMMC) since 2005.