I was a new medic when the Fallujah attacks happened in late 2004. I worked at a family practice clinic that was attached to Landstuhl hospital. The wards at the hospital became so overwhelmed with the injured soldiers, that they had to open up another ICU wing on an emergency basis and asked for volunteers to staff it.
I was the only one who raised my hand to take much of my personal time to help these wonderful people. I began on 3rd shift, 14-hour stints, 3-4 in a row with one day off in between.
I wasn't sure what to expect and because I was a new medic, I was learning very quickly and forced to do things that made me who I am today. I'll never forget that first night when they asked "You're a medic?" and I replied "Yes, Ma'am", and then she told me to join the IV start team, inserting or replacing IV's in the soldiers that needed it throughout the floor and at that time my overwhelming journey began.
There was one soldier, only 18, who was involved in a roadside bombing, his legs shattered and in tremendous pain. Every time I went into his room to do vitals or whatever needed to be performed, he cried for his mother.
At one point, around 4 am in the morning, he told me that I reminded him of his best friend that he missed and we both ended up crying together, missing the family and friends that were so far away.
There was one man I will never forget. He was a young Officer, newly married and admitted to my floor for a gunshot wound to his temple. He was sniped from far away, the bullet shattering through the side of his head and permanently taking his vision from him.
His new bride will never be seen again, only the memories of what he knew of her. What blew me away the most about this man was that he smiled. He hoped and dreamed and accepted what had happened to him. He fought for his country and he was proud of that. His smile...I will never forget it. I cried over simple things and he smiled even when his sight was taken.
I have so many stories I could tell from my experiences in the military but it would take hours to go over. These two brave soldiers are just some of the wonderful, strong and courageous people I have come across and they have changed my life forever; helping me to look at the world a little differently and more positively.