I'm sure similar sentiments have been expressed here many times over the last several years. I have not visited this site nearly enough, nor have I browsed the diary list nearly as thoroughly enough to know how many times this subject has come up.
But I have just been watching Combat Hospital on CNN, part of Anderson Cooper 360. I don't even watch CNN that often, so this is rather a random event. It's been a fairly graphic depiction of the experiences of doctors and health care workers in military emergency rooms in Iraq.
I've had several wake-up moments over the last several years. And, intellectually, I've always realized what military doctors must go through on a daily basis in Iraq. But sometimes, you have to simply see it. (more)
I cannot sufficiently express my awe and gratitude for such people.
Those with MDs, as well as those who work as nurses and other medical professionals, could quite clearly make more money back home in the States, and in far safer circumstances. In Iraq, they've seen truly horrific sites. Not only American military personnel, but Iraqi civilians (and even insurgents who have engaged in attacks against American troops) show up in these emergency rooms.
And these people treat them. They treat 20 year olds from Iowa who have been shot in the spine and aren't going to walk again. They treat 10 year old Iraqi girls, accidentally shot by their older brothers, who have been shot in the head and are going to die...with their mother wailing in the other room, reading the Koran (that's an actual example from the documentary).
They treat the U.S. soldier who's caught shrapnel from an insurgent attack, and an insurgent who didn't get away fast enough from the same event...often in the same room.
People who would give so much of themselves for so little, and who have to live with such nightmares for the rest of their lives have my deepest respect. I wish I could say with confidence that I would do the same. I have little faith that it's true. I guess I know myself too well.
I'm too selfish. Too cowardly. I simply don't know I could give so much of myself, experience such horror, have each day be defined by witnessing such pain from American soldiers and Iraqi civilians.
I'll be honest. I have not traditionally, as a Massachusetts boy with a graduate level education from an upper-middle class family, spent a great deal of time reflecting on the military. And, more specifically to what I'm writing now, I have obviously not refined my focus even more to think of military health care workers.
But if ever a group of people deserved a thank you and a congratulations, it's them.
So, to the military doctors who treat all, and who have so many times over the last few years seen their patients die, or survive with catastrophic and lifelong injuries day in and day out, but have the inner strength to come back the next day and try as hard as they can to save lives and ease pain.
To those who treat the 19 year old from Montana and the 6 year old girl from Najaf. I hope that, in some small way, I can be more like you in my own life. Even in the darkest and seemingly most hopeless of places, there remain those people who give every effort they can muster to try to save others. Bless them all.