War takes a toll on the men and women who serve our country. The stories of courage, and the stories of the horror of combat, have filled our news channels for the last 13 years. The lessons learned from the wars in Korea, Vietnam, and other recent conflicts serve as a reminder that the sacrifices of our returning veterans should never be forgotten.
There is a positive aspect to the past conflicts, and in our present wars; the advancement in medical research made possible by the lessons learned in the treatment of combat injuries.
Having served as a combat line medic, being the first responder to any combat related injuries on the battlefield, provided a greater appreciation of those advancements. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan changed the outlook on how the treatment of amputees was immediately treated. The old adage on tourniquets, ‘only as a last resort’, completely reversed, and now is the first and best treatment for not only amputees, but for gunshot wounds to arms and legs.
The current wars brought to light the existence of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Awareness to PTSD and also traumatic brain injuries and the treatment of each, has taken a giant leap forward in the past five years. The stigma of PTSD among the ranks of the military has largely subsided, though room for improvement still exists.
Serving as the platoon medic, my concern was not only to treat the physical wounds, but also to listen. I had to attentively look for and listen for any signs of stress among my soldiers, before and after every patrol. Sometimes it was me who needed to talk.
Peer-to-peer contact with those who shared the same experiences is the greatest treatment I’ve found for PTSD. It’s a network to rely on, just as we soldiers learned to do in combat. It is more important than any number of outside treatment and medications. The men that I served overseas could take comfort in this fact: I WILL ALWAYS COME FOR THEM.
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