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Bush Visits Wounded Soldiers at Walter Reed

December 18, 2003

WASHINGTON (AP) _ For the fourth time since the war on terror began, President Bush visited Walter Reed Army Medical Center Thursday to honor wounded soldiers and thank the medical staff, which has treated 2,100 patients from the Iraq war alone.

Bush was visiting privately with ``some of our bravest troops,″ who have returned from Iraq and Afghanistan, White House press secretary Scott McClellan said.

He was to meet with about 30 soldiers admitted to the hospital for orthopedic injuries stemming from service in the two nations. Separately, Bush was meeting with about 20 physical therapy outpatients and their relatives. He planned to honor some with Purple Hearts, the military award for wounded service members.

Later, Bush planned to give a speech to about 200 members of the Walter Reed medical staff and drop in on Secretary of State Colin Powell, who was at the hospital recovering from prostate cancer surgery on Monday.

Bush combined his hospital visit with care for his own sore knees. The 57-year-old president spent about two hours Thursday morning getting MRIs, or magnetic resonance imaging scans, to help diagnose pain that bothers him when running.

Walter Reed currently has about 220 admitted patients. Roughly 40 of those are classified as ``battle casualties″ from Iraq and Afghanistan. Many more patients at the hospital are being treated for non-battle injuries or illnesses after serving in Afghanistan or Iraq.

``It keeps us real busy,″ said James Stueve, a hospital spokesman.

Bush went to Walter Reed on Jan. 17 to visit injured soldiers from Afghanistan. On April 11 and Sept. 11, he met privately with soldiers being treated for wounds suffered in Iraq and gave 18 of them the Purple Heart. He also has visited with wounded troops at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.

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