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Won't Be Long And They Will Be Gone

From a 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 this."

Written By
CPT. Stephen R. Ellison, M.D.
(If you send this story along to friends, please include the author's
name. Thank you!)
*********** END FORWARDED MESSAGE ***********
 

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