February 8, 2007, Observation:
Our son John is currently in Afghanistan serving in the Air Force as an ER doctor. The Air Force paid for his education and now he is paying them back with the skills he has developed over the years. John and his friend Matt Mecuro, as 16-year-olds, were body surfing with me that fateful day when I had my accident and were able to get me onto the beach and basically saved my life. John was very involved in my care until he left on his mission and through it all gained a desire to study medicine. His home base is in Las Vegas at Nellis Air Force Base, but each year he is deployed somewhere in the world -- Afghanistan or Iraq we are thinking -- to practice ER medicine as needed. He is at a big army base outside of Kabul, Afghanistan where he and two other ER doctors manage the ER unit 24 hours a day and seven days a week. Part of their duty is to take turns going out in helicopters to pick up the wounded. John's first experience in a helicopter took place a few days ago. I thought you might enjoy hearing from John about what took place.
"Hey Dad and family,
"So things are going well here. I went on my first Helicopter mission a few days ago. It was pretty exciting. We had to go pick up an enemy combatant who was shot while trying to set up an IED (improvised explosive device). We flew about an hour to where the patient was being held. He was shot in the bottom while bent over setting up a bomb, but the bullet went into his stomach and hurt his intestines and nicked a big artery in his pelvis. By the time I saw him he had already gone through 11 units of blood, which was the entire supply of that base. Throughout the chopper ride back I had to monitor his vitals and had to keep giving him drugs to keep him sedated. He kept waking up and looking at me, so I kept giving him drugs to knock him out.
"We flew really close to the ground, about 200 feet. The surrounding area is really pretty and you would never know there was a war going on. There are a lot of rivers and farms, kids playing soccer, etc. In the helicopter was myself, 2 pilots and 2 guys looking out both sides of the helicopter keeping lookout for possible enemies on the ground. Behind us we had a big black hawk helicopter loaded with guns that was covering us in case we came under fire. I was a little nervous on the flight to the base, but on the way back I was so busy with the patient that I didn't have time to think about the dangers.
"Its pretty amazing the effort we make to take care of the enemy. I don't think they would do the same for us. I mean the guy got all the blood at that one base. If one of our soldiers had gotten hurt, there would not have been any blood for them. Also the risk involved in just going to pick the patient up. When the patient got here, we were also out of B- blood, and we actually had to get volunteers to give their blood to this guy who was essentially trying to kill us. I think it says something really special about this country that we would put so much effort into saving people like this."
I don't know about you, but reading John's e-mail made me feel proud to be an American. Imagine risking your life to save the life of an enemy who is seeking to take your life -- even giving him your own blood. We do value human life and freedom in this country!
I believe that many of the pundits in Washington, DC could benefit from reading John's simple little e-mail. I know many are opposed to what we are doing in Iraq and Afghanistan, and maybe President Bush got us into this war on terrorism in Iraq prematurely -- who really knows? But isn't it refreshing to know that we really are trying to do something very good in the world and that we place such a high value on human life, dignity, freedom and liberty.
There is a spirit of pessimism and negativism abroad in the land. 10 years ago President Gordon B. Hinckley described it as follows: "... there is a terrible ailment of pessimism in the land. It's almost endemic. We're constantly fed a steady and sour diet of character assassination, faultfinding, evil speaking of one another. Read the newspaper columnists. Listen to the radio and television commentators. The writers of our news columns are brilliant, the commentators on the electronic media are masters--but they seem unable to deal with balanced truth, notwithstanding their protests otherwise. The negative becomes the stuff of headlines and long broadsides that, in many cases, caricature the facts and distort the truth--at least the whole truth." [CES fireside, March 6, 1994]
President Hinckley, in that same CES fireside talk, also said while speaking of the United States of America: "I know that she has problems. We've heard so much of these for so long. But surely, my brothers and sisters, this is a good land, a choice land, a chosen land. To me it is a miracle, a creation of the Almighty. It was born of travail. The Constitution under which we live is the keystone of our nation. It was inspired of God. Of it the great Englishman Gladstone said, "As the British Constitution is the most subtle organism which has proceeded from . . . progressive history, so the American Constitution is . . . the most wonderful work ever struck off at a given time by the brain and purpose of man" ("Kin Beyond Sea," North American Review 127 [September/October 1878], p. 185).
Since 9/11 we feel we have truly been put upon as a nation. Can you even imagine what it would have been like to have been living in England at the beginning of World War II when Nazi Germany had already overrun most of Europe and was threatening to invade England as well? Thankfully for Western civilization there was a Winston Churchill, who like President Hinckley, was the essence of optimism and courage. He rallied the people as no one else could in that dark and desperate time. In speaking at Harrow School which he had attended as a boy he significantly said: "Do not let us speak of darker days; let us speak rather of sterner days. These are not dark days: these are great days--the greatest days our country has ever lived; and we must all thank God that we have been allowed, each of us according to our stations, to play a part in making these days memorable in the history of our race." [Address at Harrow School, 29 October 1941]
And then Churchill spoke the following stirring words to his countrymen after the disaster at Dunkirk when the prophets of doom were prophesying disaster and the imminent demise of the British Empire: "We shall not flag or fail. . . . We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender." [Speech on Dunkirk, House of Commons, 4 June 1940]
I believe we need the spirit of a Winston Churchill today in this country. Our way of life, the way of life that inspires us to give our blood to the enemy to save his life, must be preserved at any cost. Whatever your feelings about the war on terrorism or about President George W. Bush, don't you believe we have just begun a battle to the death with a very evil ideology that would rob us of everything we hold dear?
Thank you John, for reminding us that we do belong to a pretty special country!