Friday, February 8, 2013

My Journey as a Combat Medic: From Desert Storm to Operation Enduring Freedom, by Patrick Thibeault

176 pp
available format: PDF, Kindle

There are two items of business I have to conclude before I can move on with my discussion of this book.  First, I absolutely have to thank Osprey Publishing and Teddy Rose from Virtual Author Book Tours for my copy of this very insightful and personal account; second I must apologize to the same people along with the author, Patrick Thibeault, for being a week late with my post which was supposed to have been on February 1. Somehow in my muddled mind the 1st got transposed to the 11th on the calendar and well, to all concerned, mea culpa, and I sincerely apologize for the lateness. 

As Patrick Thibeault notes, "The combat medic is the warrior healer, someone who provides lifesaving medical care during operations in a combat zone. He or she is a warrior by trade and a healer by choice..., "  "... one of a few people who brings compassion and humanity to the field of battle." My Journey of a Combat Medic is, in part, the author's story of his role as a combat medic in Desert Storm and in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom. Much more than that, however,  it is a record of his personal journey from training to coming home, an eye-opening story of the arduous and demanding preparation not only to be a soldier but to become a full-fledged combat medic. It is an eyewitness account that details part of his time in the Middle East, a record of his homecoming and readjustment to regular life, including his ongoing struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). There is also a section for would-be combat medics where he offers advice based on his own personal observations and experiences.

I think I misjudged this book at first, thinking that I was about to read about the author's experiences as a combat medic, expecting it to be  about trauma suffered on the battlefield and how the author as a combat medic dealt with what he came across in the field. As the author started getting into his Army training days, it slowly dawned on me that his account was not limited solely to what had happened with him in the combat zone: this is actually the story of how a man dedicated to "compassion and humanity" came to take the road leading him to places where those two qualities are as necessary as the bandages and syringes of morphine in his medical bag. While his training and his later experiences in the field (along with open discussions of personality clashes and other issues that give the book more personal depth) make for a fascinating read, even more compelling is his treatment of coming home, especially his struggles with PTSD.  Point by point he gives an honest assessment of the components of his own PTSD as well as triggers he's come to recognize that might set it off.  He also offers some very good advice here: 
"There is a million dollar question that Joe Public likes to ask a combat veteran: have you killed
anyone? Don’'t ask a veteran if they killed anyone; that is a can of worms that does not need to be opened." (136)
I've been appalled in reading several accounts of returning soldiers that this is one of the first questions people like to ask -- as if that's all they care about.

My real issue with this book is that I think the editing/proofreading could have been a bit tighter. Sometimes it's a bit distracting for a reader when you're really into what the author is saying and up pops a poorly-edited paragraph or a typo or 2 or 3. Aarrgh.  Otherwise, I'm always amazed at other people's lives -- why they chose to do what they've done in life, what they did, and how it affected them afterward, and I was definitely not disappointed here.  Do not let the simplistic style of the narrative fool you:  there is an important story here, one which should be a welcome addition to the growing number of personal accounts from those who've returned from  serving their country during  the conflicts in the Middle East.  Unlike many of these works,  there are no literary flourishes here, it is not a book designed to question the whys or rightness/wrongness of these operations, and it is not a story that highlights every tragedy the author may have witnessed during his various tours of duty.  Any personal story is a story worth telling, especially one that takes place in a situation that no one can really understand unless you've been there.  

My thanks to Teddy Rose, for the offer to join his book tour at Premier Virtual Author Book Tours. 

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