Sunday, May 29, 2005

Memorial Day Remembrance

My father was a combat medic during World War II. He landed in Normandie on D-Day +3, and made his way behind enemy lines in the Battle of the Bulge. He was awarded the Purple Heart for a severe back injury sustained while rescuing fellow wounded soldiers from an overturned tank. That was a life-long, but bloodless (Fuck you, Bob Dole) injury. When my father was released from the hospital, he went AWOL. It's true. He and a fellow solider went to Paris for a week to really recover. When he returned to the front lines, he was told that he had a choice to make: Be recommended for a Silver Star for bravery AND face a court martial for going AWOL, or no court marital, but lose the Silver Star. He chose not to go to court.

The combat medic was one of the unsung heroes of World War II. He lived with the front line infantrymen and was the first to answer a call for help. He gave first aid to his wounded comrades and helped them out of the line of enemy fire. More often than not, he faced the enemy unarmed and was the foundation of the medical system with hundreds of thousands of surgeons, nurses, scientists, and enlisted medics.

The main objective of the medic was to get the wounded away from the front lines. Many times this involved the medic climbing out from the protection of his foxhole during shelling or into no-man’s-land to help a fallen comrade. Once with the wounded soldier, the medic would do a brief examination, evaluate the wound, apply a tourniquet if necessary, sometimes inject a vial of morphine, clean up the wound as best as possible and sprinkle sulfa powder on the wound followed by a bandage. Then he would drag or carry the patient out of harms way and to the rear. This was many times done under enemy fire or artillery shelling.

My father told us many stories of the things he had seen on the battlefield. The cries he heard. The limbs he had seen strewn about. I wouldn't say he was haunted by it, but he never forgot.

When I was young, my father was the go-to guy for all the neighborhood kids when they sustained a street injury. He could put together a butterfly bandage with his eyes closed. He was fearless around blood, and the kinds of things that made other parents very squeamish. When my cousin nearly tore off her finger in a door-closing accident in the 50s, my father was the one who bundled her up and took her to the hospital. He was the epitome of the calm and quiet combat medic always.

On Memorial Day, I remember my father who passed away in 1992. This is my Silver Star of recognition for a true hero.


  1. A moving tribute to your father and all combat medics.

    Thank you for writing this, robin andrea. It was posted before I started reading your blog. It means everything to me, reading it today.

  2. Hi - thanks for wandering over to my blog -left a response to your note. Your dad was a brave man. Most people do not understand the risks that medics took and were unarmed. Dad had some medical background so did quite a bit of surgery as there were so many injured and so few doctors. Dad also made it to Paris and had some stories to tell there. When in Germany he and a couple of others gave medical care to occupied civilians after our own troops were cared for. Once home he pretty much handled the medical care for home/neighborhood like your dad did. A tough generation - willing to do what was needed with a strong sense of right and wrong. If it helps any, I've been thanked very emotionally by French citizens for US soldiers saving their country in WWII. They haven't forgotten. Thanks getting in touch. Phil, Philosopher Mouse of the Hedge