Military Doctor :
I am a doctor specializing in the
Emergency Departments of the only two military Level One-trauma centers,
both in San Antonio, TX and they care for civilian Emergencies as well
as military personnel.
San Antonio has the largest
military retiree population in the world living here As a military doctor,
I work long hours and the pay is less than glamorous.
One tends to become jaded by the long
hours, lack of sleep, food, family contact and the endless parade of human
suffering passing before you. The arrival of another ambulance does not
mean more pay, only more work.
Most often, it is a victim from a motor
vehicle crash. Often it is a person of dubious character who has been shot
or stabbed. With our large military retiree population, it is often a
nursing home patient.
Even with my enlisted service and
minimal combat experience in Panama, I have caught myself groaning when
the ambulance brought in yet another sick, elderly person from one of the
local retirement centers that cater to military retirees. I had not
stopped to think of what citizens of this age group represented.
I saw "Saving Private Ryan." I was
touched deeply. Not so much by the carnage, but by the sacrifices of so
many. I was touched most by the scene of the elderly survivor at the
graveside, asking his wife if he'd been a good man. I realized that I had
seen these same men and women coming through my Emergency Dept. and had
not realized what magnificent sacrifices they had made. The things they
did for me and everyone else that has lived on this planet since the end
of that conflict are priceless.
Situation permitting, I now try to ask
my patients about their experiences. They would never bring up the subject
without the inquiry. I have been privileged to an amazing array of
experiences, recounted in the brief minutes allowed in an Emergency Dept.
encounter. These experiences have revealed the incredible individuals I
have had the honor of serving in a medical capacity, many on their last
admission to the hospital.
There was a frail, elderly woman
who reassured my young enlisted medic, trying to start an IV line in her
arm. She remained calm and poised, despite her illness and the multiple
needle-sticks into her fragile veins. She was what we call a "hard stick."
As the medic made another attempt, I noticed a number tattooed across her
forearm. I touched it with one finger and looked into her eyes. She
simply said, "Auschwitz." Many of later generations would have loudly and
openly berated the young medic in his many attempts. How different was
the response from this person who'd seen unspeakable suffering.
Also, there was this long retired
Colonel, who as a young officer had parachuted from his burning plane over
a Pacific Island held by the Japanese. Now an octogenarian, his head cut
in a fall at home where he lived alone. His CT scan and suturing had been
delayed until after midnight by the usual parade of high priority
ambulance patients. Still spry for his age, he asked to use the phone to
call a taxi, to take him home, then he realized his ambulance had brought
him without his wallet.
He asked if he could use the phone to
make a long distance call to his daughter who lived 7 miles away. With
great pride we told him that he could not, as he'd done enough for his
country and the least we could do was get him a taxi home, even if we had
to pay for it ourselves. My only regret was that my shift wouldn't end
for several hours, and I couldn't drive him myself.
I was there the night MSgt. Roy
Benavidez came through the Emergency Dept. for the last time. He was very
sick. I was not the doctor taking care of him, but I walked to his bedside
and took his hand. I said nothing. He was so sick, he didn't know I was
there. I'd read his Congressional Medal of Honor citation and wanted to
shake his hand. He died a few days later.
The gentleman who served with Merrill's
Marauders, the survivor of the Bataan Death March, the survivor of Omaha
Beach, the 101 year old World War I veteran, the former POW held in frozen
North Korea, the former Special Forces medic - now with non-operable liver
cancer, the former Viet Nam Corps Commander. I remember these citizens.
I may still groan when yet another
ambulance comes in, but now I am much more aware of what an honor it is to
serve these particular men and women.
I have seen a Congress who would turn
their back on these individuals who've sacrificed so much to protect our
liberty. I see later generations that seem to be totally engrossed in
abusing these same liberties, won with such sacrifice.
It has become my personal endeavor to
make the nurses and young enlisted medics aware of these amazing
individuals when I encounter them in our Emergency Dept. Their response to
these particular citizens has made Me think that perhaps all is not lost
in the next generation.
My experiences have solidified my
belief that we are losing an incredible generation, and this nation knows
not what it is losing. Our uncaring government and ungrateful civilian
populace should all take note. We should all remember that we must "Earn
Written By CPT. Stephen R. Ellison,
M.D. (If you send this story along to friends, please include the author's
name. Thank you!)