Medevacs & Medics, Angels of Mercy
By Ed Marek, editor
March 1&, 2012
"Those guys are out there taking care of America," taking bullets for us
An USAF Lt. nurse, I do not know her name, stands with her man --- I’m here for you
Captain Kristen McCabe, USAF, in spring of 2003, was a nurse with the Air Force's Critical Care Aeromedical Transport (CCAT) Team. She was assigned as the nurse for a patient, Tom, a special forces soldier.
Tom was on the ground in Afghanistan with two Americans, one Army special forces, one Air Force ground controller, both of whom were killed. Our guess is they were looking for targets to attack with air power.
Tom was shot in the right side, had one kidney destroyed, his diaphragm was punctured and so was one lung. Another round went through his right hand, another grazed his head, and he had a cut over his left eye.
He was flown by C-17 to Germany with the CCAT aboard. So were the flag-draped caskets containing his two comrades lost in battle. Prior to departure, a Forward Surgical Team (FST) removed the kidney, closed the holes in his diaphragm and lung, operated on his hand and repaired the smaller wounds on his head and eye.
Aboard this C-17, he was in critical condition. Capt. McCabe stood by his side during takeoff, strapped to the floor in case the lift-off got bumpy.
In a "must read" article by Army Cpl. Keith A. Kluwe, "Tom's Medevac Journey," published on April 7, 2003, Kluwe reported on the flight. He said McCabe was the person Tom would see through most of the flight. She stood or sat at his side for the entire eight hour flight, providing him his medications, holding his hand, and talking to him. McCabe's words will make you cry and shiver with pride:
“This is what I’m here for. This is why I joined the military, to take care of patients. Those guys are out there taking care of America and I’m here to give them the best medical care I can if they are hurt. Tom was the first patient I’ve had that was true-blue, fighting for America, going out into harms way. I will always remember him, forever.
“Tom asked me where his weapon was, and told me he was OK, if I asked him. He could answer yes or no. I almost got possessive of him. I didn’t want to give him over to the team in Germany. I know he was in capable hands; he just wasn’t in my hand at that time. He kept telling me thank you. All I did most of the time when he said thank you was give him a sip of water. He was out there taking bullets for me, and my family, and he was thanking me.
“I told him I would check up on him. It might be me, but he looked kind of scared. It might have been my feelings I was seeing. I have never felt like I needed to stay with a patient like that before. It just amazes me still that he was saying thank you to me.”
The others on the CCAT talked much the same way about their charge.
Capt. Russell Frantz, the honcho of aeromedical operations at Kandahar Air Field, said:
“We’re not here to get a medal. We’re not here to get glory. We’re here to do one job, take care of patients the best we can and get them from point A to point B hopefully in the same or better condition than we got them. We don’t need recognition for this.”
Major Daniel Smith was Tom's doctor on the team. He said this:
“I have a great sense of honor taking care of one of our Special Forces guys that was injured in battle. Here was a soldier wounded in battle, protecting our liberty and freedom and it gave me a great sense of pride to help him. When we were carrying him from the plane in Germany I was thinking that freedom is never free. There will always be a sacrifice the sons and daughters will have to make to maintain their freedom. It sometimes requires the lives and the spilled blood of those sons and daughters to keep our land free. I have a lot of patriotism and pride in our country and what these guys (special forces) do to defend out country. It really drove home to me that this is a real ball game and that lives are at stake here to keep us free."
Our medevac crews, bottom to top, all Soldiers' Angels!
With this story as background, let's take you into a C-17 rigged for this kind of mission.
Crewmembers attend to patients aboard a C-17 Globemaster III at Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii. Six sailors from the USS Frank Cable were injured when a steamline burst while the sailors were conducting routine maintenance. Photo credit: Master Sgt. Roderick Reyes, USAF
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Our wounded will not walk their journey alone!
This is why I am here: “Those guys are out there taking care of America," taking bullets for us