In the field, everyone is working to ensure that nothing goes wrong. But, when the mission goes sideways, everyone thanks the heavens for the medic. The one who rushes through fire to save their patients.
Here are 10 medics who saw patients in danger and rushed to their aid, sometimes sustaining serious wounds or even dying in their attempt to save others.
1. Ranger platoon medic treats patients while enduring repeated IED blasts
Spc. Bryan C. Anderson was part of an Army Ranger assault force sent after a high-value target in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan on Oct. 5, 2013. When the team landed, an insurgent successfully fled the target building and began running away. An element of soldiers moved to catch him but they were struck by a suicide bomber and triggered two pressure plate IEDs.
Anderson rushed to the aid of the wounded even though he knew they were in the middle of a pressure plate IED belt. Over the next few hours, Anderson crisscrossed the IED belt treating the wounded. During a particularly harrowing 30 minutes, seven IEDs detonated within 10 meters of Anderson, according to his official award citation. Though some of his patients from that night died, two severely injured Rangers survived because Anderson continued rendering aid despite experiencing his own traumatic brain injuries. Anderson was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.
2. Corpsman riddled with shrapnel pulls 4 injured comrades from vehicle while under fire
During an American-Afghan convoy, Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Benny Flores was in a vehicle struck by an IED. Despite having his own shrapnel injuries and taking incoming enemy fire, Flores began treatment of a Marine in his vehicle and then aided the Marine in taking cover. He ferried to and from the vehicle three more times, treating and moving to cover a wounded Afghan police officer and two more Marines, all while under enemy fire and without receiving treatment for his own wounds. Flores received the Silver Star.
3. Pararescueman drops into IED field to save Army Pathfinders
On May 26, 2011, a squad of U.S. Army pathfinders was crippled when it struck multiple IEDs during a mission. Air Force Staff Sgt. Thomas H. Culpepper, Jr. was voluntarily hoisted down to the battlefield only 25 meters from a known IED. Culpepper and his teammate stabilized the pathfinders and then began hoisting them into the helicopter. On the last lift, Culpepper and the final patient were nearly dropped from the helicopter when it experienced a sudden loss of power.
They were recovered into the bird and Culpepper received the Distinguished Flying Cross.
4. Corpsman continues treating casualties after being shot in the back
On April 25, 2013, Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Kevin D. Baskin was part of a Marine task force pinned down by enemy fire outside Kushe Village, Afghanistan. Baskin treated an initial casualty under heavy fire and then moved him to a casualty evacuation vehicle. Immediately afterwards, Baskin was shot in the back. He continued to treat new casualties and refused medical treatment for his own. He supervised the evacuation of the wounded and laid down cover fire for the evacuation of the team. His actions were credited with saving the lives of four Marines and he was awarded the Silver Star.
5. Medic bounds up to wounded casualties under fire, then treats them until he dies of his own wounds
On March 29, 2011, a group of soldiers with the 101st Airborne Division were clearing a known insurgent strong point when they came under a complex ambush from enemy fire. Three members of the lead element were injured immediately. Spc. Jameson L. Lindskog bounded from the rear of the element to the troops in contact while under fire so heavy that the bullets destroyed cover whenever he moved behind it.
Lindskog triaged the casualties and began treatment. While working on an Afghan National Army soldier, Lindskog was struck in the chest by an enemy round. He remained lucid and refused treatment, asking to stay on the battlefield and give instructions to those rendering aid. His instructions saved the lives of two other men, but he died of his wounds before being evacuated. He was posthumously awarded the Silver Star.
6. Pararescue jumper treats nine casualties by moonlight while under withering enemy fire
The 101st Airborne called for support during an operation after they took two casualties on Nov. 14, 2010. Air Force Para rescue jumper Master Sgt. Roger D. Sparks was on the response team. His helicopter arrived and was circling the objective when the situation on the ground suddenly intensified and the 101st took four new casualties. Sparks and another airman began a 40-foot descent to the battlefield below despite the increased enemy activity.
While descending, they came under intense enemy fire and their lowering cable was struck three times by bullets. Immediately after landing, the pair was attacked with an RPG round that knocked them both from their feet. Running across the objective while under increasing machine gun and RPG fire, Sparks treated nine wounded soldiers by moonlight, many with serious problems like punctured lungs, eviscerations, and arterial bleedings. He returned to the landing area but stayed on the ground, coordinating the evacuation until the last soldier was loaded. His actions saved five lives and resulted in the remains of four Americans making it back to their families. He was awarded the Silver Star.
7. Medic shields casualties from mortar fire until forced to move, continues treatment throughout
Spc. Monica Lin Brown was an airborne medic on a combat patrol in Afghanistan on April 25, 2007, when an up-armored Humvee struck an IED. The IED was the first part of a complex ambush on the column. Brown moved 300 meters under enemy fire to the burning vehicle and began caring for the wounded. She triaged them onsite and then moved them with the help of the platoon sergeant into a nearby wadi. She continued to render aid and used her own body as a shield while 15 enemy mortar rounds landed within 100 meters of her position.
The mortar fire eventually forced her to move the wounded two more times as she continued treating and shielding them. The wounded men were eventually medically evacuated and Brown was awarded the Silver Star.
8. Medic dies after treating casualties under ‘barrage of RPG fire’
On Nov. 12, 2010, Spc. Shannon Chihuahua was part of a blocking position in Kunar Province, Afghanistan. A squad providing overwatch suddenly came under a complex enemy attack with small arms, machine guns, and RPGs. Chihuahua ran from a relatively safe position into the heat of the fighting to treat the wounded.
Moving from soldier to soldier providing care, Chihuahua eventually found himself the focus of the enemies’ attacks. Chihuahua went down under a “barrage of RPG fire,” according to Sgt. Kevin Garrison, the squad leader whose position was the focus of the first attack. Chihuahua was awarded the Silver Star.
9. Stryker medic pulls three casualties from a burning Bradley
Staff Sgt. Christopher Bernard Waiters was the senior medic in his Stryker company when a Bradley Fighting Vehicle struck an IED and began to burn with its crew still inside on April 5, 2007. He parked his vehicle in a security position and immediately engaged two enemy fighters.
He then ran to the burning Bradley on his own and pulled the driver and vehicle commander out. He treated both and escorted them back to his own Stryker. That was when he learned another soldier was in the troop compartment. He ran back and entered the burning vehicle, falling back only for a moment when the 25-mm ammunition began to explode. He re-entered, saw the deceased soldier and went for a body bag. Another medic retrieved the body while Waiters drove the wounded back for further treatment.
10. Medical sergeant performs surgery in the open while under fire
As the medical sergeant on a civil affairs team, Staff Sgt. Michael P. Pate was part of a patrol in Afghanistan. The group came under heavy fire from multiple machine gun positions and at least six other enemy shooters. Early in the ensuing firefight, the rear man of the element was shot in the back. Pate and his team leader rushed to the man and drove him to what little cover was available, a six-inch deep ditch. Though his patient was slightly covered, Pate was fully exposed as he performed surgical interventions on the wounded man. During this time, Pate also assisted the joint-terminal attack controller with directing airstrikes and coordinated the medical evacuation for the wounded. He was awarded the Silver Star.