Stories of self sacrifice involving soldiers always choke me up. I can’t tell you the number of times my wife has had to tell me to “take a breath” when recounting some story along these lines.
The January 2009 issue of VFW magazine got to me with its article on draftees who won the Medal of Honor. A couple of stories about medical personnel particularly caught my attention, so I decided to recount a few similar stories.
Maybe these stories will choke up a few of you like they do to me. See the Army’s Center of Military History Web site for Medal of Honor citations (http://www.history.army.mil/moh.html).
Navy Lt. Joel Boone caught my eye for his actions in World War I. While serving with the Marines, he left the safety of a trench to dash across an open area while under artillery fire including poison gas to reach wounded Marines and administer aid.
When he ran out of supplies, he ran back through the barrage to obtain supplies and return to help the injured. He again ran out of first-aid supplies and made another round trip to continue to treat the wounded.
In World War II, Pvt.Harold Garman, a littler bearer, witnessed a German machine gun firing at assault boats evacuating casualties across the Seine River.
Upon realizing that one boat contained one severely injured man and two wounded clinging to the sides of the boat while under fire, Pvt. Garman dove in the water and swam to the boat as bullets churned the water around him.
Once he reached the boat he towed it through the water to the friendly side.
His actions inspired other soldiers to continue the evacuation.
A World War II doctor, who also was in the VFW magazine, really touched me.
Capt. Ben Salomon was a battalion surgeon on Saipan when several thousand Japanese attacked the infantry battalions he was supporting.
Wounded filled his aid station and Japanese soldiers began to overrun the battalions. Salomon shot a Japanese soldier who had just bayoneted a wounded soldier. When four Japanese soldiers crawled into the aid station, Surgeon Salomon slapped a knife out of one’s hand, shot one, bayoneted one, and butted the last one, which gave a wounded soldier time to shoot him.
Salomon ordered the wounded to leave, grabbed a rifle and charged outside. After four soldiers died at a machine gun, he took over that position and continued to fight to protect the wounded struggling to escape.
After the battle, 98 dead Japanese were found piled around Salomon’s body. Just typing this story got to me.
There isn’t enough space to tell more stories about courageous medical personnel. Anyone can browse the Medal of Honor citations and read about them.
On distant battlefields today medical personnel continue to risk their lives in order to save the lives of America’s warriors.
Many others also save lives in forward hospitals. We’ve seen plenty of medical people from Fort Benning deploy to Iraq and Afghanistan in order to care for our soldiers overseas.
They, too, are courageous soldiers who deserve our thanks for all that they have done and continue to do.