DEAR ABBY: I had to write regarding “Doc in Distress” (March 26), who allowed a critically wounded comrade to push him away so he could save others. I spent eight years as a combat medic in the Army. As hard as it is to hear, that person acted precisely as he was trained.
Training in mass casualty situations — triage — dictates that immediate care be given to those who are most likely to survive. Those who are identified as “expectant” are to be treated last. The purpose is to successfully treat the greatest number of people. Putting his energy into trying to save someone who would possibly die anyway could have resulted in even more fatalities.
Unfortunately, nothing anyone can say or do will reduce the guilt he feels. “Playing God” is never easy, and many medics have wondered if they would be able to do it. — KIMBERLY IN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA
DEAR KIMBERLY: Thank you for writing. I have been flooded with mail from medics from all branches of the military, from World War II, Korea, Vietnam and the current combat zones, offering support for Doc. I wish I could print them all. Read on for a sample:
DEAR ABBY: I know his pain. I served in Iraq as a combat medic and watched friends die as I tried to help everyone I could. I still have nightmares and flashbacks. However, with treatment they are now under control.
I want Doc to understand that what he did was right. The soldier knew he was going to die no matter what was done. He gave his life for his team and his country. Doc needs to understand that this soldier’s family is grieving and took it out on the person who just happened to be there.
I urge Doc to go to a mental health officer on base or to his local vet center for help. He can also call Military OneSource at (800) 342-9647. There are mental health people standing by 24/7 to help. — A BROTHER MEDIC IN IOWA
DEAR ABBY: The family of that wounded soldier needs to know that his last act of courage probably saved more than one life that day by allowing Doc to move on and treat others who could be saved. They should salute their family member and the actions of the medic.
Historically, military medics go into major battles, generally unarmed, with one purpose: to save the lives of wounded soldiers. They have one of the highest per capita casualty rates in the armed forces. It takes a special person to go into a live battle like that. — NAVY VETERAN IN NEW JERSEY
DEAR ABBY: I am an active duty member, and I would like to offer Doc my support and that of those I work with for his courage in performing his duty in a terrible situation. If I were to be lost in combat, I would want someone like him to be near. His caring for the family of that member is to be commended. They may not understand now, but in time they will come to realize that he did all he could for their son and appreciate that he brought the letter home.
Bravo Zulu, Doc! — TRICIA IN GULFPORT, MISS.
DEAR ABBY: I am a stay-at-home mom from California with two beautiful children and no immediate family serving in the military. Except for watching the war on the evening news, my life is far removed from war.
Not a day goes by that I don’t say a prayer of thanks to our men and women who serve in the military. Surviving war is hard enough without the added burden of guilt. I hope that one day Doc can find peace with his decision and know that America is proud of his service.
I want to take this opportunity to thank Doc and all of our armed forces. Without them, I would not be able to live a safe, comfortable life away from the horrors of war. — A VERY GRATEFUL AMERICAN
DEAR READERS: On this Memorial Day, let us bless the spirits of those servicemen and women who have sacrificed their lives that we might live in freedom. — LOVE, ABBY
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.