You Send Them...We Mend Them

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Scott J. Hilmes
  • 55th Medical Support Squadron, commander
You've often heard the medics holler this cheer at awards ceremonies and promotions ... but for many, it's much more than just a chant. As a recently deployed medic to Iraq, I witnessed events which gave me a more profound understanding and appreciation of Air Force health care.

As force multipliers, medics do a phenomenal job of providing in-garrison or deployed military members and their families, the best health care on the planet. My family has personally experienced outstanding care throughout my 25-year career. However, I didn't realize the true importance of military medicine and its ability to deliver around-the-world care; while achieving incredible life-saving results in treating the wounded. I witnessed just how important and successful it is while deployed with an expeditionary medical support squadron which cared for more than 4,200 U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq.

One evening, the medics were summoned to treat injured coalition warriors. This time, the wounded were Iraqi Army whose humvee had run over an improvised explosive device. Immediately, our entire staff went to work on five injured Iraqi soldiers. Unfortunately, despite the EMEDS tireless efforts and unbelievable skill, one of the five warriors succumbed to his traumatic injuries. In spite of this tragic loss of life, our fellow IA and U.S. Army Special Forces brethren, while deeply saddened, were extremely gracious with their praise of our staff.

Several days later, we received an email from a U.S. Army Special Forces lieutenant colonel who worked alongside the IA unit whose casualties we had treated. The email stated that while delivering his condolences to the IA company commander, the company executive officer, who had assisted in casualty evacuation, made the following statement: 

"After what I saw last night, I understand why American Soldiers love their country. America values human life. Last night, no matter what the soldier's injuries or their rank, there were 10 medics working on each Iraqi soldier. If we had taken those soldiers to an Iraqi facility, they would have been thrown to the dogs. We are proud to have American Soldiers as our brothers."

Many of our fellow Americans sit in wonder and amazement while failing to understand why we not only serve, but actually volunteer for duties in Iraq and Afghanistan. I would ask them how many have jobs, which afford them the opportunity to have this type of an impact on world events or on someone's life. I consider my service to the men, women and families of Offutt, as well as my country, to be an honor and a privilege ... and "I'm Proud to be...MDG!"