It’s 4 A.M. and I’m torn from sleep by the rapid opening of the rusty steal door at the entrance of my barrack; knocking resonates from my door followed my Joe J’s voice. He informs me 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 this Afghan is a Taliban insurgent who was captured from the night’s mission. They needed 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 this is the first confirmed insurgent I have been faced to treat. 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 were 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.
The 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 is the absence of brilliantly colored leaves of the Kentucky landscape surrounding my home. 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 costume 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, but yet he cries for daddy when he injures himself or feels insecurity. Talon my youngest son has crying spells at pre-school during his mid-day naps that are growing more common by the day. If they only could comprehend their daddy feels their anguish. If they only knew daddy’s dreams were filled with images of them.
I love you Missy, Turin, Talon and baby Myla….