Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Ultimate Sacrifice

I just returned from a heart-wrenching memorial service for soldiers who died while supporting combat operations this week here in Afghanistan. I didn’t know these men, or even recognize their faces or names, but the least I could do was attend their memorial service and pay my last respect. This is the second of these services I’ve attended here, both of them for soldiers from the same company. I feel for them all.

I sent a detailed e-mail to my wife, Judi, a couple of weeks ago describing how I have become much more emotional after serving on this deployment. I find myself unable to hold back tears when I witness, or even hear or read about, the outstanding things our soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen are doing in this war. I held it together throughout most of the ceremony today; even through all the stories, recounted by their fellow soldiers, about what great men they were – true American Heroes. It wasn’t until the end of the ceremony, when they do the “roll call”, that my emotions got the best of me. In the roll call, the unit of the fallen soldiers stands at attention in formation when the Company First Sergeant begins calling random names of the company and they reply with a hearty “here First Sergeant!” The First Sergeant then calls for one of the fallen and it goes something like this:

First Sergeant: Specialist Doe!
No response
First Sergeant (after a short pause): Specialist John Doe!
No response
First Sergeant (again, after a pause): Specialist John Andrew Doe!
No Response

You then hear the Final Volleys (21-Gun Salute), followed by the playing of Taps, and then everyone in attendance approaches the helmet, boots and rifle of the fallen to give one “final salute” for giving the ULTIMATE SACRIFICE. May God bless the families of these great men.

I hope I never have to attend another one of these ceremonies.

Take care,

John


THE FINAL SALUTE

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Kellen Winslow Jr is No Soldier

I know I just posted yesterday, but I feel the need to tell this soldier’s story while it’s fresh in my mind. I came back from breakfast today to the report of a soldier coming to the FST who was involved in an IED blast. He arrived stable and alert complaining of pain in his right arm and right leg, both were still attached – thank God. He was dismounted (out of his vehicle) when an IED went off, striking him on the right side of his body. He had significant soft-tissue injuries to his right arm and leg, but not much bleeding or other trauma. While I’m assessing his injuries and getting a history he tells me this is the second time he’s been “blown up”. He was also hit with a grenade in Iraq in 2008. Now I’m thinking, that is a phrase I hope I never have to utter….”blown up a second time”. Oh, I forgot to mention, he followed that statement with, “fucking Taliban”! Fucking Taliban is right, brother.

I felt compelled to tell this young man’s story (he’s 23) because I’m sure there are so many more like it that American’s DON’T hear about. I started thinking how many other American heroes are out there who have been “blown up” multiple times and have lived to tell about it? I don’t think enough of them are telling their stories. This kid is 23 years old and has served in two different combat environments, risking his life so that other American kids can be free. He will return to the states and receive his second Purple Heart which will go unnoticed to most of America and that, my friends, is a crying shame. If you’re reading this blog you need to tell this soldier’s story to as many people as you can. There is something seriously wrong in a world where Lebron “Fucking” James gets an hour of the spotlight on national television to talk about his signing of a bajillion dollar contract to play basketball while the story about a kid around his age who gets “blown up” for a second time fighting for his country will go unreported. Ok, I’m off my soap box, but seriously the toughness of these young men is remarkable and I LOVE them all. And if I ever saw Kellen Winslow Jr I would give him an earful. He’s no soldier! And he has no idea what war is…no idea. This young man is the epitome of a SOLDIER! For those of you unfamiliar with the Kellen Winslow reference here is a link:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I82BPA5QAaQ&feature=related

So, right before this soldier goes back to the OR he looks at me and asks, “If they find any shrapnel in my arm or leg can you save it for me?” My answer, “you bet your ass I will!” In case you’re wondering, we did find plenty and I tucked it in his boot as he went out the door for his helicopter ride to the Role 3.

As is customary for this blog, I like to end on a lighter note so here is a link to a great Second City Television skit about getting “blowed up”. Enjoy!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_dfoVqhQVyQ

Take care,

John

Friday, July 9, 2010

RO-Medical to the Rescue

I mentioned in a previous post that we share the FOB, and the FST facilities, with the Romanian Army. They are a wonderful group of men and women and we have grown quite close with the Romanian Medical team who share our building. The team consists of two Romanian Family Practice Physicians, Dr Adrian and Dr Daniel, a dentist, Dr Chris and numerous medics – they go by first names as their last names are typically very difficult to pronounce with lots of consonants.

Earlier this week we had a minor (minor for us) mass casualty event after a bus crashed in Qalat city. We had very little notice, not surprising, and ended up receiving 5 seriously injured Afghan locals. The first two required intubation (placing a tube into their lungs so to assist breathing) which our CRNA’s managed expertly. Seriously, the Nurse Anesthetists we have, Shane Lawson and Robbie Ladd, are two of the best I have ever known. Their skill level is at or better than many stateside Anesthesiologists. They have managed some of the most difficult airways and made it look routine. We have had at least 5, maybe more, patients with unbelievable facial trauma and blood coming from every orifice on their face and Shane and Robbie step to the head of the bed and insert an endotracheal tube with ease. It’s pretty cool to watch. The other three patients had broken and dislocated bones and a pneumothorax (collapsed lung), but nothing really life-threatening. One of them had to be taken to the OR to fix his dislocated knee, which is why I mentioned the Romanian Medical team. Because of the seriousness of the first two patients we were a little short-staffed so the Romanian’s stepped up to help out and they ended up caring for the patient who required surgery. Even Doc Chris, the freakin’ dentist, was in the ICU helping with the two intubated patients. They will be leaving the FOB soon and asked for a group photo with us wearing the Navy FST -shirts we gave them. They will be missed.

From left; Dr Adrian, Lodin the Interpreter, Dr Daniel and Dr Chris (I have no idea what Lodin is trying to do with his fingers. Perhaps its an Afghan gang sign. Or he's a confused University of Texas fan). Check out their scrub caps. Is that NATO at its finest or what?



The Group Photo



The day prior to the bus crash we had a US soldier come to us with blunt trauma injuries from an IED blast. He arrived to the FST without a pulse and we were unable to save him. Another tough day.

The day before that we had a 9 year old boy brought to the FST after the donkey he was riding on (you only get stories like this in Afghanistan) walk over an IED. He was severely injured and required extensive surgery on all 4 extremities. We were able to save them all, but he lost the pulse in his right arm just prior to transfer. We found out he had to have that arm amputated the following day – very sad.

July has been a busy month for us thus far and I anticipate it will stay that way until Ramadan starts in early August. For those of you not aware, Ramadan is the Islamic month of fasting, in which participating Muslims refrain from eating and drinking from dawn until sunset and they offer more prayer to Allah. It is my hope that because of the fasting and the praying that they also stop the fighting and the bombing. I think it starts 11 August, just a few weeks before we are due to leave. It would be a nice going-away present.

My beautiful wife and I celebrated our 13th Wedding Anniversary on 5 July and I posted a video I made for her on Facebook. I am also going to try to post it here just to see if I can do it. She will be going on vacation with her family tomorrow to the Outer Banks in North Carolina. I wish I could be there with her. I miss you Judi.

John

video