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The Doobie Brothers at Walter Reed. Photo: USO
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The Doobie Brothers Honors Closing of Walter Reed Army Medical Center Hospital With Free Concert

Thursday, July 28, 2011

By Christian Pelusi 

Grammy-winning group The Doobie Brothers paid homage to Walter Reed Army Medical Center and its wounded warriors yesterday as part of the closing ceremony held to honor and commemorate the 102-year history of the military care and rehabilitation center.

Called “A Salute to Walter Reed Army Medical Center’s Tradition of Service,” the concert provided the entertainment portion of the event, compliments of long-time supporters of troops, military families and the USO, The Doobie Brothers. The group has entertained and visited servicemen and women across the globe and has donated and raised more than $2.5 million in support of American servicemen and women. They also debuted the world premiere of their music video “Far From Home” on the USO website earlier this year.

“This is a pretty special event,” said vocalist and guitarist Pat Simmons. “I think this is a little different from a normal USO show. This is more of a commemoration, I think, as much as entertainment. Although that’s what we’re here for: to entertain. I think most of the people will be here to commemorate the Walter Reed hospital and moving on to a new facility and we’ll be a part of that.”

Being a part of such an important occasion is nothing new for Simmons. A band member since the group’s inception in 1970, he has lent his time and ability to so many efforts in support of the nation’s military throughout the years.

“I think we really understand … being as old as we are … we’ve seen a lot of wars, a lot of conflicts. Our military has had to step up and deal with it, as well as a lot of humanitarian things the military does that we all are proud of. And so, it’s just an ongoing thing. We know the challenges that our men and women are faced with, more so now maybe than ever. I think with the budget shortfalls and so on, we know it’s up to the private sector to reach out and that’s something we’ve always been aware of and try to do as much as we can.”

The concert was part of the day-long ceremony that marked the official closing of the center which included the flag casing of the hospital’s colors and the unveiling of the new Army element colors that will unfurl at Walter Reed’s new homes in Bethesda, Md. and Fort Belvoir, Va. Some of the historic facility will be classified as a national landmark while other regions of the structure will be either refashioned for other uses or demolished.

Elaine Rogers, President and CEO of USO Metropolitan Washington, which sponsored the concert, excitedly looked to the future of the new Walter Reed footprints in Virginia and Maryland.

“I think one of the emotions, from the USO side, is that we’ve been bringing in so many celebrities on a daily basis to visit with our wounded warriors and it is a bittersweet day because you have all this history of this incredible hospital,” she said. “But the great thing is, we’re going to take all that history with us and all those USO celebrities as we move on to the new hospital, combined with Walter Reed in Bethesda and out at Fort Belvoir. So all of our histories are going to continue and we just wanted to say now ‘Thank you’ for what Walter Reed has done for our nation.”

And in return, Walter Reed Garrison Commander Col. Peter McHugh extended his appreciation to the USO and The Doobie Brothers for their long-standing commitment to our country’s troops and military families.

“Walter Reed is a very special place. This is where America sends their sons and daughters and their husbands and wives, their moms and their dads to heal. Because of our location here in D.C., it’s also where America comes to say ‘Thank you.’ So the USO has been a wonderful supporter of our operations here and The Doobie Brothers is just another example of America just coming and taking a chance to say ‘Thank you very much’ by sharing their talent with those that have given so much for them.”

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More photos: The Doobie Brothers at Walter Reed 

From the USO blog: Military Spouse: The Doobie Brothers Aren’t Just an Act 

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