Letter From Army Doc

This should be required reading in every school and college in our country. This Captain, an Army doctor, deserves a medal himself for putting this together. If you choose not to pass it on, fine, but I think you will want to, after you read it.


I am a doctor specializing in the Emergency Departments of the only two military Level One-Trauma Centers, both in San Antonio, TX. We care for civilian emergencies as well as military personnel. San Antonio has the largest military retiree population in the world living here. As a military doctor, I work long hours and the pay is less than glamorous. One tends to become jaded by the long hours, lack of sleep, food, family contact and the endless parade of human suffering passing before you. The arrival of another ambulance does not mean more pay, only more work. Most often, it is a victim from a motor vehicle crash.

Often it is a person of dubious character who has been shot or stabbed. With our large military retiree population, it is often a nursing home patient. Even with my enlisted service and minimal combat experience in Panama, I have caught myself groaning when the ambulance brings in yet another sick, elderly person from one of the local retirement centers that cater to military retirees. I had not stopped to think of what the citizens of this age group represented.


I saw ‘Saving Private Ryan.’ I was touched deeply. Not so much by the carnage, but by the sacrifices of so many. I was touched most by the scene of the elderly survivor at the graveside, asking his wife if he’d been a good man I realized that I had seen these same men and women coming through my Emergency Dept. and had not realized what magnificent sacrifices they had made The things they did for me and everyone else that has lived on this planet since the end of that conflict are priceless.

Situation permitting, I now try to ask my patients about their experiences. They would never bring up the subject without my inquiry. I have been privileged to hear an amazing array of experiences, recounted in the brief minutes allowed in an Emergency Dept. encounter. These experiences have revealed the incredible individuals I have had the honor of serving in a medical capacity, many on their last admission to the hospital.

There was a frail, elderly woman who reassured my young enlisted medic, trying to start an IV line in her arm. She remained calm and poised, despite her illness and the multiple needle-sticks into her fragile veins. She was what we call a ‘hard stick.’ As the medic made another attempt, I noticed a number tattooed across her forearm. I touched it with one finger and looked into her eyes. She simply said, ‘ Auschwitz ..’ Many of later generations would have loudly and openly berated the young medic in his many attempts. How different was the response from this person who’d seen unspeakable suffering.

Also, there was this long retired Colonel, who as a young officer had parachuted from his burning plane over a Pacific Island held by the Japanese. Now an octogenarian, he had a minor cut on his head from a fall at his home where he lived alone. His CT scan and suturing had been delayed until after midnight by the usual parade of high priority ambulance patients. Still spry for his age, he asked to use the phone to call a taxi, to take him home, then he realized his ambulance had brought him without his wallet. He asked if he could use the phone to make a long distance call to his daughter who lived 7 miles away. With great pride we told him that he could not, as he’d done enough for his country and the least we could do was get him a taxi home, even if we had to pay for it ourselves. My only regret was that my shift wouldn’t end for several hours, and I couldn’t drive him myself.

I was there the night M/Sgt. Roy Benavidez came through the Emergency Dept. for the last time. He was very sick. I was not the doctor taking care of him, but I walked to his bedside and took his hand. I said nothing. He was so sick, he didn’t know I was there. I’d read his Congressional Medal of Honor citation and wanted to shake his hand. He died a few days later.

The gentleman who served with Merrill’s Marauders,

the survivor of the Bataan Death March,

the survivor of Omaha Beach,

the 101 year old World War I veteran,

         the former POW held in frozen North Korea,

the former Special Forces medic – now with non-operable liver  cancer,

                  the former Viet Nam Corps Commander.

I may still groan when yet another ambulance comes in, but now I am much more aware of what an honor it is to serve these particular men and women.

I have seen a Congress who would turn their back on these individuals who’ve sacrificed so much to protect our liberty. I see later generations that seem to be totally engrossed in abusing these same liberties, won with such sacrifice.

It has become my personal endeavor to make the nurses and young enlisted medics aware of these amazing individuals when I encounter them in our Emergency Dept. Their response to these particular citizens has made me think that perhaps all is not lost in the next generation.

My experiences have solidified my belief that we are losing an incredible generation, and this nation knows not what it is losing. Our uncaring government and ungrateful civilian populace should all take note. We should all remember that we must ‘earn this.’

If it weren’t for the United States Military, there’d be NO United States of America!

And now as you have finished reading this, our Congress enjoys their free medical care, are in the process of charging these people for their medical care and at the same time possibly reducing their retirement pay. A typical political “Thank you” for their Service.

 If you choose not to pass it on, fine, but I think you will want to.

                                 In God We Trust!

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8 Responses to Letter From Army Doc

  1. Libby says:

    I was, briefly, thinking of leaving it alone.

    But, no, self-interest as patriotism must not be allowed to pass without comment … Mr. Collecting-Military-Retirement-Pay.

    And then there is the hypocrisy. One may not, out of one side of one’s face, yowl about the spiking deficit and taxes in general … whilst … out the other side, lobby for the preservation of one’s own spot at the trough. Tacky.

    Remember, Jack, you are a member of the “Boomer Bubble” which is costing us dearly in publicly subsidized healthcare and pensions.

    However, I am not in favor of legislating any reductions in your benefits. Ya’ll are dropping daily … we can get though this by other means. You, for instance, could let some of the twinges go without medical attention.

    • Post Scripts says:

      Libby frankly I am stunned how much Medicare does for me and I used it very sparingly. However, I’m in the minority, I think when most people get something for “free” they tend to overuse or abuse it more than they should. It’s not their dime – so why should they care? I’ve heard to many stories from my daughter about people on medicare or medical going to the hospital ER for minor illnesses just because its more convenient/faster than waiting until their regular doc can see them. ER visits are costly! There is at least 30 cents out of every dollar that is pretty much wasted now in those two programs. I know we can do better, that’s a ton of waste, fraud and abuse in our Medi-care and Medi-Cal systemns.

      • Libby says:

        Hee, hee … it is disloyal, I know, but I love that Kaiser chastises my mother for just such recreational doctor visits. “If you won’t take your medication, you will have symptoms, so stop coming in here to complain about it.”

        So mean … but necessary.

    • Harold says:

      “I was, briefly, thinking of leaving it alone.”

      Next time think harder!

      • Libby says:

        And leave you to wallow in your willful, self-interest? No, I don’t think so.

        I could never be persuaded of that “Greatest Generation” tag. They fell for Reagan’s bigoted blather … hook, line, and sinker … let all the social gains of the New Deal, the integration of the army, the abolition of Jim Crow … just evaporate. Shameful is what that is, and nothing great.

  2. J. Soden says:

    EXCELLENT post, Jack! Thank you!!!

  3. Peggy says:

    What a touching reminder of the sacrifices and dedicated services so many gave for us and that we could be talking to them and not know.

    The Greatest Generation was also the Silent Generation. What happened on the battlefields stayed on the battlefields. My own dad never spoke of his tour in Germany during WWll except to say the pain in his legs were caused from the frostbite he got while being in a foxhole. After knowing my backyard neighbor for years I asked him about the scars on his arm and learned he was a Pearl Harbor survivor. Tom Brokow’s book, “The Greatest Generation” is a wonderful insight into those who served during WWII, their silence after and how when they returned made this country the great nation it is today.

    This doctor’s letter should remind us of our precious human treasures that no money can buy or replace. Our veterans earned their medical care because they served their country to preserve it for future generations, who should be grateful and willingly pay to provide for their healthcare. They earned it over those who were just born here or came here illegally and demand everything for free.

    Shame on those who would deny providing for those who earned our support and demand we pay for those who didn’t.

  4. RHT447 says:

    Charles Mohrle, WWII Fighter Pilot.

    Still has a fire in his eye, steel in his voice, and song in his heart.


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