Evening Quickie #soldierporn: I believe I can fly.
A U.S. Army soldier watches his team drive a M1131 Stryker Infantry Carrier Vehicle on a driving range on Forward Operating Base Bastion, Helmand province, Afghanistan. The military has been using the Stryker since 2002 in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Richard W. Jones Jr, 27 FEB 2013.)
“Man, no one gives a shit about what we did yesterday.”
Open Letter to CNN from a CCAT Team in Afghanistan
February 20, 2012
Dear Mr. Anderson Cooper and CNN (or other reputable news agency),
Although I am sure that you receive thousands of communication attempts per day, I remain hopeful that this letter will cross your desk, or that of an appropriate staff member. My name is Adam Tibble, and I am currently deployed at Camp Bastion, in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan. I am a critical care air transport physician for the US Air Force. My team includes a critical care nurse, Captain Frank Brisendine, and a respiratory therapist, Staff Sergeant Robby Wilson. Together we transport our severely injured soldiers within Afghanistan and onto medical facilities in Germany. The work represents a difficult paradox for us. It is incredibly rewarding and heartbreaking at the same time. The injury patterns inflicted by enemy fire and IEDs (improvised explosive devices) are awe-strikingly severe, and serve to stir emotions rarely experienced by medical personnel.
Just the other day, we flew two critically ill patients to another US hospital within Afghanistan. Following the mission, my team sat, exhausted, eating lunch at an American dining facility. CNN played passively on a television in the background, and a large group of US Marines was positioned on our right. Given the condition of their boots and their aggressive chewing, it was obvious that these guys had just returned from the field “outside the wire.” For 50 straight minutes, CNN’s coverage failed to deviate from the day-old Whitney Houston tragedy. I lifted my eyes up from my food as a handful of Marines were clearing their trays. One Marine leaned back to his buddy after gesturing to the TV and said, “Man, no one gives a shit about what we did yesterday.”
At that moment, I craved for the American public to be informed as much about a Marine’s sacrifice as the life of a music legend. In no way is this letter an indictment of CNN, its coverage, or Ms. Houston. In fact, we scour your website, as it is one of the most respected sources of journalism in the world. Rather, this is a challenge to devote a percentage more coverage to the true heroes in this conflict.
For example, our team had the honor of transporting a special forces medic who suffered incredible injury. As pragmatic medical minds, we didn’t necessarily believe in a patient “fighting” for their life. But, this medic changed all of that as he tolerated replacement of his blood volume too many times to count. He made it to Germany to see his family before succumbing to his wounds. He represents a real-life “Saving Private Ryan” story as his brother also lost his life in this nearly forgotten conflict.
Or what about the two US Army PFCs (Private First Class) that we flew on the day of Ms. Houston’s overdose? Each soldier lost two legs and one hand in IED attacks. In total, six limbs were lost in a matter of seconds on February 11, 2012. The American public will never know their names, but will likely know the results of Ms. Houston’s blood toxicity screen. However, we submit that these soldiers are more hero than any rockstar, athlete, or actor that dominates the headlines. We will never know the courage or bravery it takes to join that convoy or be the first to enter that cave, nor will we forget the sacrifice they made for our country. CNN is in the unique position to not let the American public forget, either.
Recently, there has been a lot of talk about the 1% and the 99% of America. Less than 1% of the population belongs to this all-volunteer military that has been tested by two wars for over 10 years. The political and foreign policy implications of these conflicts make them hard to understand, and even more impossible to hold the general American public interest. And to be honest, it is sometimes difficult for us to understand as service members. However, these kids still join that convoy and enter that cave, only because of their incredible bravery, commitment, and because America asked them to.
Therefore, in turn, we plead with one of the most respected news agencies in the world to return the favor–to recognize the elite of our 1%, perhaps with a hero highlighted per week, or per day. There are thousands of stories out here. We would be happy to help you find these heroes and stories. Please ask. Then, maybe, CNN can tell that Marine in the dining hall that we all, in fact, do give a shit about what they did yesterday.
U.S. Marine Cpl. Ryan Hamman, a vehicle commander with Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 2d Marine Regiment, provides security for Marines as they return from loading an injured linguist onto a DUSTOFF UH-60 Black Hawk for medevac during a security patrol in Helmand province, Afghanistan. Patrols are conducted to disrupt enemy operations against the Bastion-Leatherneck Complex.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. John A. Martinez Jr, 24 AUG 2014.)