See How These 'Virtually Unknown' Men and Women Affected Wars Without Firing a Gun
I am sure we all have seen those men and women, with a large Red Cross on their helmets or wide armbands prominently displaying the Red Cross, evading bullets, grenades and exploring mortar shells to attend to the wounded and dying.
They run, or crawl, carrying medical supplies, to anyone crying out “medic,” risking their own lives. They seem to be impervious to bullets; don’t seem to feel hungry or tired. They look so recklessly and romantically brave – in the movies.
All these elements are present in real life, except there is nothing romantic about war. It is cruel; it is abominable; it is destructive. And these men and women are not any braver, not impervious to harm. They can get a bullet any second, or be blown to pieces the next.
But they go on with their tasks, fully aware of the dangers involved. For them what matters most are the 3 Rules of a Combat Medic.
The world has never been at peace since the beginning of time. It has never experienced 10 straight years of absolute peace. Somehow, somewhere, there was and always will be armed conflicts.
In each one, there will always by combat medics. They will not win wars, but they will affect the lives of hundreds directly involved in it.
Like these 10 who made their marks through Man’s war-ravaged history.
1. Mary Edwards Walker – U.S. Civil War:
She was the only woman in her medical class in 1855. Her medical practice, however, floundered because no one trusted a female doctor then. So she volunteered in the Union Army, but was not allowed to enlist because she was a woman, so served plainly as a civilian volunteer.
As a civilian volunteer, she was not allowed to practice as a doctor, either, so she volunteered as a nurse. As a nurse she ministered to the wounded soldiers in the First Battle of Bull Run, and worked her way to become a field surgeon’s assistant.
In 1863, she was given an Army commission, but still technically as a Civilian worker. In 1864, she was captured by the Confederate Army for a few months and charged as a spy, but continued to serve their medical needs just the same. In 1865 she was given the Congressional Medal of Honor for her efforts at the First Battle of Bull Run – the only woman to have won the Medal.
After the war, she waged another – women’s rights. She even ran for public office at the time when women were not allowed to vote. A real gutsy lady.
2. John Simpson Kirkpatrick – World War I:
John Simpson Kirkpatrick, as a teen-aged Englishman, deserted the British Merchant Navy in 1910, and found himself in Australia. He enlisted in the ANZAC (Australia, New Zealand Army Corps) as John Simpson in 1914, and was designated as a stretcher bearer.
In 1915, his medical ship was sent to the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey, where one of the most bloody battles of WW I occurred. 130,000 men died in that arena. Simpson rounded up several donkeys to carry the wounded over rough terrain. He spent 24 days transporting casualties from the front to the seashore, often under heavy enemy fire.
Simpson and his favorite donkey, Duffy, were called “the bravest of the brave” by the coalition forces in Gallipoli. His luck ran out when he was killed by a sniper on May 19, 1915. He was only 22 years old then.
3. Rex Gregor – World War II:
As a 21-yr old Navy Pharmacist’s mate, Rex Gregor was assigned to the U.S. Marines fighting in Vella LaVella, one of the Solomon Islands in the Pacific, in 1943. Throwing his own caution to the wind, he retrieved the wounded under heavy enemy fire.
In one instance, he braved Japanese fire, to rush to a burning ammunition ship to save the medical supplies it carried. In another, finding no doctor to attend to a soldier needing immediate leg amputation, he did it himself. He was later commended for doing the surgery adequately.
4. Edmund Doss – WW II:
Edmund Doss was a devout Seventh-day Adventist and was willing to serve his country but would not fire a shot to kill. He always prayed and did not work on Saturdays except to attend to the wounded. His commander tried to expel him according to Section 8, and the other soldiers hated him.
But Doss refused to admit mental instability. In the battles of Guam, Leyte and Okinawa, Doss proved his worth. During three weeks of fighting, he approximately saved 75 casualties under artillery, mortar and machine gun fire.
During once such retrieval, he was wounded by a grenade while carrying another casualty. He dressed his own wounds while waiting for five hours to be rescued. Even then, he still attended to other wounded soldiers in the field, even directing stretcher bearers to aid other men first.
Later, a sniper shot him through the arm, breaking a bone. He made a splint out of a rifle stock and crawled 300 yards to an aid station. In 1945, he was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor – the first conscientious objector to win the award. His exploit was later made a documentary, titled, The Conscientious Objector.
5. John Bradley – World War II:
John Bradley is better known as one of the six men who raised the American flag on Mt. Suribachi, in Iwo Jima. But he shunned the recognition, as well as the Navy Cross awarded him for gallantry in the battlefield.
Bradley joined the Navy at age 19 and was designated a Pharmacist’s mate. The Marines took him as a corpsman in the Pacific Theater. On Feb. 21, 1945, he rushed to a Marine wounded by machine fire. He rigged up an immediate plasma transfusion setup and patched the Marine’s bleeding wounds while shielding him with his own.
He later dragged the Marine to safety. A few days later, he was on Mt. Suribachi for the flag-raising. He was later evacuated after being wounded by shrapnel.
6. Genevieve de Galard – French Indochina War:
Genevieve was a French Air Force Lieutenant when she went to French Indochina (Now Vietnam) in 1953 as a medivac flight nurse to the French troops engaged in heavy fighting in Dien Bien Phu.
During the fight, her plane was damaged so she volunteered to work in the field hospital – making her the only female medical worker there. Genevieve retrieved wounded soldiers from the front, assisted surgery, and ministered to the wounded, eventually running a 40-bed ward for the seriously injured.
The French lost the battle on May 7, but Genevieve stayed on until the entire medical staff was evacuated on May 24. For her selfless efforts, Genevieve was called l'ange de Dien Bien Phu (the Angel of Dien Bien Phu) and became a media sensation when she returned home.
7. Charles L. Kelley – Vietnam War:
Major Charles L. Kelley was a medivac pilot in Vietnam and Commanding officer of the 57th Medical Detachment. Between January to July of 1964, he flew several rescue missions, even at night when visibility was low.
On one such mission, July 1, he was warned that he is going to a “hot zone.” He went anyway. When asked when he is going to return, his usual reply was, “When I have your wounded,” which became the slogan of the medivac corps. He died when his helicopter crashed after being shot through the open door. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross posthumously.
8. Thomas W. Bennett – Vietnam War:
Bennett was a Corporal when he was assigned as medical aid to the 2nd Platoon Bravo Company, fighting in Pleiku province, Vietnam. During intense fighting in the Chu Pa area, he repeatedly retrieved wounded soldiers over the next two days.
He was later shot by a sniper, and died, while retrieving another wounded soldier. He was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor by Pres. Nixon in 1970. Bennett was also a conscientious objector, willing to serve his country but refused to kill.
9. Sally Clarke – Afghanistan War:
Sally Clarke, 22, was a Lance Corporal in the British Army serving in Afghanistan in 2009. While on patrol in the Helmand province, her unit was hit by an RPG (rocket-propelled grenade), wounding eight soldiers, including Sally.
A shrapnel was lodged in her back, but she saw that the other soldiers were more badly hurt than her. She rushed from one patient to the next, binding up their wounds until they can be evacuated. She, however, refused evacuation as she was the only medic in the unit.
Later, she was treated in a aid station. For her selfless acts of heroism, she was awarded with a Queen’s Commendation for Bravery.
10. Monica Lin Brown – Afghanistan War:
Monica was an 18-yr old Army Specialist with the 82nd Airborne serving in Pakila province, Afghanistan, in 2007. While on patrol, her unit got hit by a roadside bomb, wounding five soldiers and setting their Humvee on fire.
She ran through withering gunfire and exploding mortar shells to reach the soldiers who managed to leave their burning vehicle, and shielded them with her body. She was later awarded the Silver Star.
Here’s the rub – she was later pulled out of Pakita province because regulations forbid women from combat. These men and women, by no means, complete the list of those whose bravery saved a lot of lives in the field – even as some lost theirs.
A friend of mine, a soldier who saw action in the front lines told me that the smell of gunpowder changes men. Some become cowering cowards while others are driven to almost maniacal zeal to fight in order to survive.
For the men and women above, both both types and those in the middle are their concern.