Stories from Iraq

          I know from my own experiences during six months in Iraq, the news reported is not always what happened and it seemed to focus only on the bad, the sensational, and the confrontational or to cast doubt on our men and women serving. 

          Here are a couple of different stories, the first writer is a Major the other an NCO, for Force Protection issues.  I will not identify them other than to say they were assigned to a medical unit in Iraq.  With a few corrections to assist in readability, these words are their own.  Two different stories, two different men on two different days and this is the first time they have ever been printed. God Bless our kids and God Bless America.  While you may wonder what are we fighting for, never doubt the ones doing the fighting.  These are just two stories from a multitude of thousands.  The media does not see fit to tell these stories, the only ones that know are you, the families and friends.  To paraphrase Paul Harvey, “Here’s some of the rest of the story.”

*****

Patient #0143

          All is well on the battle front. Had a moment, when we are not being mortared or receiving trauma calls to tell a little story that had a touching effect to me and brings home what we do over here.

          Anyway, I was excited to tell that I did have a great night Saturday night. It is a story I will talk about as one of my greatest stories over here. I went to a Toby Keith concert Saturday night. He is a country western singer, I am sure you all know, that usually tours the war fronts on USO tours whom, very much supports our troupes and what we do.  I was an escort on this particular tour on Saturday night.  I was selected by the commander to be on a detail to escort the wounded to the concert.

          We had front row seats and a standing ovation of more than 7,000 in attendance, when we came in, in mass. We were bussed in to the front gate of the stadium, one of Saddam’s Republican Guard stadiums we took over. Anyway, I escorted my assigned patient to his seat. We all set next to our patient. There were about 20 patients and 20 escorts. That is not the story though. The heart of the story is whom I escorted.

          It was Patient # 0143, a patient that came in via UH 60 Black Hawk on a trauma call just 24 hours prior. I found that out by talking to him and noticed his arm band and realized I had worked numerous hours on his transfusions and needed trauma blood work just 24 hours before. I need to back up a few hours to set up his story.

          Patient #  0143, came in on the 26th after coming up on a grape vineyard just outside of Normandy FOB (Forward Operating Base) where his mission was to search for and destroy weapons caches. Well, he found one and the sniper guarding it found him and shot him in the arm at the elbow bend and severed his artery and almost severed the arm. He lost a lot of blood before arrival and coming to us. He came to us less than an hour so his labs did not show blood loss but his pressures did.

          Later, we found out he called in his own Med Evac and attack support. He did say he had the place lazed and heard large secondary explosions while he was leaving. These were recorded and ending up to be a major weapons cache just a few miles from here. Well, that is the set up.  What is amazing is that after many units of blood and working on him for the past 12 hours personally, I am escorting him to that concert just less than 24 hours after he arrived. Now, that is awesome and amazing to me.   Really this is not about me, it is about the capability this battle field hospital can do. It is why I am here.

          At the time I was escorting him, I had no knowledge of the story, but I looked at his arm band while I was seated and we both put the story together. He remembered the ER, getting blood, all up until he was prepared for emergency surgery to have his artery and nerve repaired. He is a rather young man of about 27 years old, and it really touched me.

          The phenomenal things we are doing to save life and limb and return folks to family or back to the fight. We came over here to save lives and I am taking one of them to a concert, just a short 24 hours from his arrival, it is astonishing to me. I know his fast reconstructive surgery of the artery and nerve plus all the support, diagnostics were responsible for such a light speed recovery. Words may be not adequate to explain about this amazing and awesome facility in the middle of the desert. I have witnessed it first hand.

          Patient #0143 was shipped to Germany the next day, but not until after I got Toby Keith to sign his hat and mine too. See, Toby made a special appearance on our Bus after the concert to talk to each of the wounded and take pictures. Toby is a true patriot, in my mind. I shook his hand and told him, “Thank you for all you do for these troupes” He told me in my ear out of ear shot to anyone else, that, ” Hey it is my pleasure, I just love and enjoy flying in a Black Hawks all over, the battle field and sing to you guys. Stay safe and NO, thank you,” he said to me. “Let me have your hat” He signed and went on to the next patient.  

          Yes, this is what we do. That is my good news story you will not hear anywhere else, at least on the news. It really lifted my spirits, put my mind in Iraq and into my job here, and why we are here. I am surrounded by the best professionals that could be assembled in one place. It is awesome to think that 24 hours later a patient is going to a concert, with me. Phenomenal!!!!

          As of today, since I landed we have transfused 936 units of Blood products in the form of RBC”S TO FFP, to platelets, yes we make those here, too. We also maintain Cryo and draw our own Whole Blood Donors. We will average well over 1000 units transfused before month end and save the life of 96% of those whom come to us from the battle field.

          All is well on the eastern front. No attacks today, thank God. It has been a wonderful day, after all, a good day here is when you can fix’ em up and take ’em to a concert the next day.  Present temp is 109 in the shade. Hope all is well there. I have to go thaw some FFP.  Please, share with anyone.

*******

The other face of this war!

          Hello family and friends, I hope everyone is well. I must share with you the events of last night. There was a suicide bombing at a mosque outside the city of Baquaba. Baquaba is about 30 miles from Balad where I am. 20 were killed at the scene. 30 came to us! My friends, it was the most chaotic night of my life but also the most gratifying. Patients started to arrive by helicopter straight from the scene at about 11 PM. All the patients were Iraqis and I worked in the ER during this time. It was one after the other for 2 hours.

          The injuries were unbelievably brutal, people disemboweled, skull fractures, burns to large percentages of their bodies, sucking chest wounds, open fractures, just to name a few. It was a continuous stream of screaming men bleeding all over the place. It looked like a slaughter house on the floor of the ER. Blood pooled everywhere and supplies lying on the floor.

          As we wheeled patients to CAT scan, other new ones would take their place. Just when you thought you had a moment more would come in. Although it was chaos we treated the patients quickly and efficiently. Orders were yelled out and medics responded, chest tubes and central lines were placed, large bore IVs started and still more patients came. I rolled in a man whose body was at least 60% burned so we could check his back and a waterfall of blood poured on my pants and boots. (I have already gotten new boots issued.)

          Men were taken to surgery and quick labs were done. It was totally out of control!!! But thru it all we responded.  American men and women worked like they were working on their brothers and sisters. An Iraqi man with his femur (upper leg bone) sticking out of his leg said to me “I am glad you are my friend!” Another said that it was Zarqawi (the leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq) who did this.

          After approximately 3 hours I went to the overflow ward which is designed strictly for a mass casualty. Those who were not in surgery or left in the ER went to the overflow ward. We had 10-15 patients in there. As I went to work 4 marines who were here as patients said to me” Doc, what can we do? (Marines call all medics doc) Mind you these four young marines were here because their vehicle was hit by an IED.

          These guys fight insurgents daily and now want to help the Iraqi patients in anyway they can. (I put them to work stocking supplies) Again it was chaos but things were getting done. Army medics from across base rushed to help us. We did not know them but it did not matter. When it was all said and done we lost only one man. Many of the patients are still here, the less serious have been sent to Iraqi facilities.

          As I look back and have a chance to reflect on the night I am proud of our accomplishments.  Men and women from all branches of the service did their utmost to save other human beings. Make no mistake the war continues and we will always have patients. But I have never felt so much pride and accomplishment as I did last night. Yes my friends, I was surrounded by heroes last night, people who will never get the credit they deserve, will never be rich and will never be on TV. But you know what I am surrounded by heroes every day. Not just Americans but Iraqis and foreign soldiers from countries like Georgia, Estonia, Latvia and Poland just to name a few. (I have let the Polish know that Germany will kick their ass in the World Cup)

          Yes, the fight for freedom and democracy is long and many have fallen. But we will prevail because the men and women of the US military will not falter! Until the next time take care.

          I don’t know about you but there was a tiny, almost invisible thread through both of these stories.  It was not the heroism, the sacrifice or professionalism that bothered me.  The tiny thread was both felt no one would ever know the story of what happened and both felt there were “people who will never get the credit they deserve, will never be rich and will never be on TV”.  If you can read this story, thank a teacher.  If you read in English, thank a Vet and never, ever forget.

This is what we’re fighting for!

Bob Anderson

About Bob Anderson, PhD, CMSgt. (Ret.)

Bob Anderson recently retired from the military after 32 years of honorable service with the Air Force.  He is now focusing his time on his company, Back To Basics International, a professional speaking and training organization.  Bob’s greatest passion is speaking to audiences and inspiring them to excel.

Earlier this year, he returned from a deployment in Iraq as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom.  While there, he was responsible for two law enforcement detachments and 32 Military Working Dog Teams. His 221 person squadron was scattered among 21 different locations throughout Iraq.  He traveled to all of these locations while there, which was over 6000 miles. He was honored by receiving the Bronze Star Medal for distinguished service while in Iraq.

To contact Bob Anderson, please do so through his website at www.BackToBasicsInternational.com

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