The Sandbox

GWOT hot wash, straight from the wire

Welcome to The Sandbox, a forum for service members who have served or are currently serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, returned vets, spouses and caregivers. The Sandbox's focus is not on policy and partisanship (go to our Blowback page for that), but on the unclassified details of deployment -- the everyday, the extraordinary, the wonderful, the messed-up, the absurd. All correspondence is read, and as much as possible is posted, lightly edited. If you know someone who is deployed who might have something to say, please tell them about us. To submit a post click here.

DEDICATION |

June 06, 2007

DEDICATION...
Name: LT Carl Goforth
Posting date: 6/6/07   
Stationed in: Anbar Province, Iraq
Milblog url: desertflier.blogspot.com
Email: cwgoforth@gmail.com
 

"Two wounded inbound. IED attack," the Army coordinator says. We go to the OR, turn on the lights, start warming fluids, ensure the oxygen generator is turned on along with the anesthesia machine. After that we wait, as always, with a mixture of anticipation and anxiety.

"Headlights coming down the alley!" yells one of the surgeons. Four soldiers quickly unload a casualty off the Humvee and run into the trauma bay as we direct foot traffic. I'm standing in casualty receiving, and start to follow the patient in when I'm frozen in my tracks: he is so dark from dirt and mud that he doesn't look like he has a uniform on and I can't make out his facial features. He has to be Iraqi civilian. I'm a little confused because the word was two Army soldiers. I do a double-take and don't see anything beyond the upper portion of his thighs. Nothing there but empty space.

The medic is on their heels, and he looks as pale as a silverlit moon. His uniform is caked with dirt. Sweat streaming down his face into his eyes; he doesn't even notice, because he's practically running blind into the trauma bay when the chaplain and I stop him. Chaplain asks him if he's the medic, and he can only shake his head in the affirmative. We quickly thank him for doing such an outstanding job of getting the patient to us, and "Chaps" takes him aside to talk to him and comfort him.

I follow on the heels of the litterbearers into the OR. Staff is streaming in to help. I position myself on the soldier's right flank and establish IV access while simultaneously putting monitor equipment on. I do a quick scan of the room to see if crowd control is needed, and spot an unknown visitor wearing a tan flight suit with no identification. I quickly walk over, introduce myself, and request he immediately identify himself. "Company Commander," he says. We talk for a bit, and I ask about the patient. "Just married a few months ago while on R and R. Such a good guy," he says. What to say back?...We both stand in silence for a few moments. I ask him if he's okay with staying, and he seems fine. I quickly go back to work. The orthopedic surgeon, Tim, and general surgeon, Martin, are working on the extremities at the same time. Mark and I take great care to package him up for the flight to Al Asad. We start giving sedatives and pain medications immediately.Framed_goforth_dedication_surgery

His unit: their love for him is unquestionable. His buddies press into the OR the second we finish working on what's left of his legs. A few with shellshock and patched up arms and legs from the blast are at his side and don't want to leave, hollow look in their eyes and mouths stuck permanently in "O" mode. Eric talks to them about how well their battle buddy, their brother in arms, did with the surgery.

They are so upset with themselves, as if they were to blame. Eric gives one a bear hug; reassures them it isn't their fault. We let them -- no, we are honored to let them -- be the litterbearers back to the ambulance for the short ride to the helo pad.

I help load him into the ambulance for Mark, and turn to run ahead to the helo pad, and as I turn I come to a screeching halt for the second time tonight. His entire unit is lined up and at attention along the route to the helo pad. As the ambulance slowly pulls out, they render colors to their wounded brother. I was so proud of them all; they would see one of their own through anything. The air heavy and charged with emotion, I find myself stumbling on knocking knees because this time it's my turn to be blinded by my own tears as I try to make it to the landing area before the ambulance.Framed_goforth_dedication_night

They all walk behind the ambulance to the helo pad, and help Mark and I load him onto the Blackhawk. We stand together one last time as the Blackhawk spins up rotors and gently wisks him to the 399th CSH at Al Asad. Not a muscle twitches until helo and patient are out of sight. Now we wait for the updates and pray that he will continue to have a good life with his new bride beyond this violent collision of reality. Who deserves it more than this man?

Comments

LT Goforth,
I'm praying the commander will recover! Praying for his men and women that they can carry out their duties, knowing their commander is in the best of care. Keep these soldiers safe!
Thankyou for sharing this and for doing your all for our wounded!

I am so proud of all of you and the work you are doing in Iraq and Afghanistan. You and our Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Airman are the best our country has to offer. Keep up the great work. Your country needs you!

LT - The scene you describe, that of this man's unit lined up and rendering colors as he is taken to the helo to be moved to the next level of care, defines what combat is about: Mom, the flag, and apple pie disappear instantly in a fire fight. Your life is in the hands of the man on your right and on your left and theirs are in yours. You survive by making sure that they survive. There is a clarity about this that is difficult for me to describe to anyone who has not experienced it. The young man being carried to the chopper is their brother and their friend in the purest sense of the words. He, and they, will never be closer to anyone else in their lives in the same way, even their wives.

39 years ago, I went to Vietnam believing that the fight was about freedom and justice and democracy. I found out quickly that it was about the men with whom I served.

You're right on point Mike. This story jerked tears out me as I remember those I served with. No better men have I ever known.

I think a lot of us vets too old to go would go over just to have that bond again. I sure miss those guys.

Nick - If the phone rang tomorrow and someone on the other end said some rifle platoon needs you, there is no question in my mind that I would pack my shit and go. (What they'd do with a balding, overweight dude with an artificial knee is beyond me.) Despite the fact that I oppose everything this war is about, the lies and the waste of brave young men and women, it would be for them that I would gladly put my life on the line, not for the politicians and the bureaucrats.

As I simultaneously mourn his loss and feel wistful pride in his dedication and that of his comrades, this post reminds me a little more clearly what death and killing really are and how many "closest bonds" were broken by the sudden arrival of lethal force.
That boy should be finishing college, having a baby, getting a job, all with two legs. And this has happened, what? 20,000 other times since this started? What a waste of honor, courage, love, and hope. All the best of what all mankind and our youth have to offer. And used for what?

Dave. Please remember you do not stand in the shoes of this man and unable to judge his life a waste, despite all the opportunities he may have missed. It means a great deal to him, his family, and many more. What he may need more is to know that whatever his condition, his life is one of value, and valued.

Margit,

I never said his life was a wasted. I said his sacrifice was a waste of potential. A waste of how much more he could have had and brought to those around him. I pray that he will overcome the difficulties he is now facing.

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