Combat Medics seldom make the headlines. Yet without them, hundreds of thousands of soldiers and innocent civilians alike would die on the battlefield, never again to see their friends, families or country.
Raised as an “army brat,” Patrick Thibeault enlisted in the Army after graduating from high school and became a paratrooper and combat medic. In 1990, he deployed to Operation Desert Shield, and served in Iraq through Desert Storm. Later he served as a soldier and medic in Afghanistan. My Journey as a Combat Medic: From Desert Storm to Operation Enduring Freedom offers a compelling, insider’s account of life as a Combat Medic.
Thibeault writes of his excitement in taking his first jump as a paratrooper. He was nineteen. He details the ups and downs of military training, provision of medical care to soldiers, civilians, and prisoners of war. He vividly describes his experiences and I could feel the weight of the body armour, heat, and the smells he described— the strange perfume-like smell of the desert, the aroma of spent ammunition, burnt flesh, and helicopter exhaust.
He tells of the trips at night to pick up injured soldiers and the methods they used to tell if soldiers were alive or dead. Differences in the training of medical personnel caused him frustration in working with a culture who did not see medical care during a war as a 24/7 responsibility. His experiences involved living and working closely with the Afghani people and taking care of injured Afghanis as well as American soldiers . Patrick understands that the services provided to our veterans could use some improvement, but he tells of Afghani amputees who are bound to a wheelchair for the rest of their lives because they don’t have the advanced care that we do.
He talks of his wartime service including having at times inadequate equipment and supplies.
One of the most interesting parts of this book, for me, was the author’s frank discussion of post-traumatic stress disorder. He writes openly of his own struggle with PTSD. The effects including rage, flashbacks, inability to be in crowds, and nightmares are a daily challenge. He talks of strategies that have been helpful and the difficulty others besides himself have with this syndrome following war.
It is this authentic voice that penetrates your head from start to finish and stays with you when you have read the last line. No monotony here. His voice has an amazing range, playing on images that we do not always immediately recognize as images. It is the voice of a dedicated medical combat soldier who knows well how to write a plain unadorned document.
If one wants to gain a better understanding of the soldier and what he endures, then this is a good book to read. It is a handbook for writers who want to gain a better understanding of soldiers who are characters in their books. It is also a way for anyone to better understand the combat medic who is a gun-toting soldier as well as a trained medic
Come back tomorrow for a one on one interview with Patrick.
Patrick Thibeault was a medical career soldier for 20 years. He deployed in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm in 1990 -1991 with the 76th Infantry Brigade as part of Task Force Phoenix in 2004- 2005.He received many awards and designations during his career including Meritorious Service Medal, the Air Medal, the Combat Medic Badge 2ND Award, Expert Field Medical Badge, Crewmember aviation wings and the parachute badge. He holds a Master’s Degree, is a board certified Family Nurse Practitioner and certification as an Emergency Medical Technician. He lives in Indianapolis, Indiana with his wife, a dog, and two cats. His website is www.armycombatmedic.com