Our Veterans, It Won't Be
Long And They Will Be Gone
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,
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
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
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.
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author's name. Thank you!
Happy moments, praise God.
Difficult moments, seek God.
Quiet moments, worship God.
Painful moments, trust God.
Every moment, thank God.
Life is a miracle wrapped in beauty and filled with sweet