President Donald Trump on Saturday made his first visit to a military hospital with his wife, Melania, in order to award a Purple Heart to an Army sergeant.
Trump said he was moved by the story of Sergeant 1st Class Alvaro Barrientos, who was wounded in Afghanistan last month.
“When I heard about this … I wanted to do it myself,” Trump said during a brief ceremony at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.
Barrientos, whose right leg below the knee had been amputated, was brought into a hospital atrium in a wheelchair, accompanied by his wife, Tammy. Trump kissed Barrientos’ wife before he affixed the award to the sergeant’s shirt collar.
The Purple Heart is awarded to service members who are wounded or killed in action.
Trump reportedly met privately with about a dozen other service members who are receiving care at the medical center.
Before leaving the White House for the hospital, the president tweeted that he looked forward to “seeing our bravest and greatest Americans.”
Trump’s decision to allow news media coverage of the medal ceremony was in marked contrast to the practice of former President Barack Obama, who awarded Purple Hearts behind closed doors.
Trump was driven to Maryland instead of flying in the Marine One helicopter because of annual public tours of the White House south grounds and gardens that were taking place Saturday.
As the motorcade exited the complex, the sidewalks were lined with protesters who had come to Washington on Saturday to promote science and defend it from attack, including Trump’s proposed budget cuts.
The March for Science, coinciding with Earth Day, was anchored in Washington and took place in more than 600 other cities, attracting such celebrities as science educator Bill Nye and Doctor Who actor Peter Capaldi.