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.

MADE IN U.S.A. |

November 09, 2011

Name: Major Mark Duber
Stationed in: Afghanistan
Hometown: Cleveland, Ohio
Milblog: Warbird Doctor Diaries
Email: markduber@gmail.com

It’s 4 A.M. and I’m torn from sleep by the rapid opening of the rusty steel door at the entrance of my barrack; knocking resonates from my door, followed by Joe J’s voice. He informs me that our Special Operative friends have brought us early morning business from a mission that just concluded. I force my senses to wake up, get dressed and head out the door to the FST. I open the door and am greeted by many familiar Special Forces faces that appear to be happy to see me. Next to them is a blindfolded restrained bloodied middle-aged bearded Afghan male on a gurney.

My SF friends inform me that this Afghan is a Taliban insurgent who was captured during the night’s mission. They need me to stabilize his orthopedic injuries before he is transferred to an Afghan-run detention facility for interrogation and holding. I examine the insurgent patient and identify many obvious conflict-inflicted injuries, and order appropriate x-rays to better evaluate them. After a review of the radiologic images I formulate a surgical plan.

It’s interesting to note that this is the first confirmed insurgent I have been faced with treating. Multiple other similar surgical cases were laced in obscurity, with no confirmation of insurgent intent. But now here he is in the flesh -- the enemy we're fighting against, that would slit our throats if given a chance, murder our wives and children. A sense of disgust boiled deep within my veins and I would be lying if I told you the non-physician part of me didn’t wish eternal harm on him. Images of the deceased U.S. soldiers I’ve treated raced through my mind, compounding my distain. It took a deep internal strength to control myself and maintain a professional composure; my white coat mentality fortunately won the best of me on this occasion. Who knows, maybe the day I meet my fate and am standing face to face with my creator I’ll reflect positively. I guess the American culture embedded within my center breeds compassion as well as the familial roots that raised me.

Framed Duber MADE IN USAThe insurgent was prepped for surgery and taken to the operating room. His fortunes afforded him my best efforts, as that’s all I know how to give in the surgical environment. Multiple injuries were addressed and surgically stabilized. The last orthopedic procedure was his leg, which required a long-leg “bivalve” cast. After it was complete I felt the need to remind this insurrectionist who he should thank for reconstructing him, so on his cast in big red letters I wrote “Made in USA" -- maybe a passive-aggressive gesture, but to me and my fellow soldiers, priceless. 

The chill of a new season is descending upon us here in Afghanistan. One noticeable difference from home is the absence of the brilliantly colored leaves of the Kentucky landscape. These last months in theater will no doubt be the most personally challenging for me. The holiday season is approaching at a fast pace and with it my absence to my wife and children. Daddy missed his daughters' first Halloween costumes and the exuberance of his sons as they were Buzz Lightyear and T-Rex. Pictures don’t ease the pain, and time does not stop in my absence. My oldest son, who is nearing 4 years old, has resigned himself to near complete avoidance of me when I call home, yet he cries for Daddy when he injures himself or feels insecurity. Talon, my youngest son, has crying spells during his mid-day naps at pre-school that are growing more common by the day. If they only could comprehend that their daddy feels their anguish. If they only knew Daddy’s dreams were filled with images of them.

Comments

I was on my way out when I read this, and had to stop and say a few words. I think the level of self-control exhibited by yourself and the Special Ops soldiers... well, I don't know if it is just the way it is done now. It seems extraordinary that nobody went Dirty Harry on this guy.

The benefit of restraint is somewhat clearer to me. A well treated prisoner will more likely cooperate.

But maybe more important is this: This will not be the last military action in our world. It is important that we demonstrate some level of standards. To do less is to lose honor and gain the label of barbarian.

I'm sorry this comment is a little bit fragmented. Your actions keep us proud. Yes, that's all I really needed to say, isn't it.

Bless You...

Phil A

So you are a Kentucky boy! A big hello and lots of love to you on V-Day from a Lexingtonian! You do us proud, Mark. We think of you, your companions and your efforts daily, wishing with all our hearts that you could come HOME. But while you are there, your sacrifices do not go unnoticed. We need to make sure you know that every single day. Love and hugs to you, you are much appreciated.

Tammi J., Lexington, KY

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