Thursday, May 18, 2006

Dulce et Decorum est Pro Patria Mori

I had the privelege of attending a memorial service on base today for some of our country's finest warriors who were killed in action. I couldn't help but think of the anti-war poem that I studied in 8th grade English- click the above title to read it. I don't enjoy death or war but I'm also not a pacifist and I love and respect our men and women in uniform. I have never liked that poem. I think it's too simple... too pat.

I was in the military for four years and I had it easy. I squeaked in between conflicts and managed to stay stateside for my tour. I currently live in a military town and the losses here are particularly hard felt, but there is no shortage of grim determination either.

It's an interesting thing to be in what could pass for the set of a patriotic hollywood movie (do they still make them?). That's what if felt like today. I did not know these gentlemen who had been killed. Listening to the service it was obvious that they had gone down in a blaze of glory, fighting the enemy, and, ultimately, dying as a result.

For someone in a generation that missed, for the most part, these kind of sacrifices it's just very humbling to see. While I was listening to the Chaplain, the Commanding Officer, and the friends offer eulogies, I had to ask myself if I could have done what these guys did. I don't think I will ever know.

Some may say that there is an element of heroism in the practice of medicine. I would disagree. I think it is an honorable profession, don't mistake me, and I'm proud to be a physician. However, there really is something unique about being a warrior. In no other profession does one chose to literally become a target, hopefully a lethal one, for the greater good. In no other profession does death seek you specifically. It takes a special individual to realize this and to choose it anyway.

The M-16s with bayonets stuck in the ground, the Kevlar helmets, the tears, the roll-call, the rifle shots, and the playing of 'Taps'. I see death all the time but this was different. This was sacrifice, this was a choice, this was heroic, this was important, and I will not forget.


  1. Thank you for sharing this post. Your posts (and those of your M.D.O.D-mates) often make me laugh, but always give me pause to consider the truths of life.

  2. If you're ever interested in helping decrease the number of memorial services, see what you can do about letting some Navy Corpsman or Army Medics shadow you for some of your trauma patients, or if you can get them into an observer slot during a trauma surgery. I am a reserve Navy Corpsman after 4 active and 2 tours in Iraq. I recently got to go to my first cadaver lab and i learned more in 8 hours with an ER resident then i had in the last three years. The Good Corpsman and Medics (Docs) will appreciate your help in ways you cant imagine. So will their patients.

    HM2(FMF) Heidrich

  3. thank you for your service, corpsman. without going into detail let me say that i am involved in just such a program right now.

  4. Outstanding. Thank you. If you have any positions available, or if you can give any input on how I could help establish a similar program here, Id appreciate it. If your willing/able to help, I'll post my contact details here, and you can email me yours.

    Thanks again.
    Doc Heidrich

  5. doc,
    i look forward to getting your contact details. as it is very important for me to remain anonymous i will figure out a way to contact you without revealing my identity. i need an email and your duty station. i think i can help a bit from there. also, if you would, do me a favor and go to the post entitled, ''you americans'' and post a flame or two to someone in the comment section named 'two dudes'. from someone who has been there it would be revealing. i will look forward to getting your info.

  6. With pleasure.

    You mentioned your close to a base of some sort. Any marine can look up my email address.. Im in the NMCI Global address book. It will have both email and current duty station. You can email me there. You also mentioned you have a Special fighting friend. he can also look me up in the navy address book, just change the branch of service, as i dont check the navy account anymore.

    Doc Heidrich

  7. Of course I am biased, but Navy HMC, the 8404, are outstanding!

    I attended the funeral of Army Spc. Josiah Vandertulip, who came under small arms fire while on a dismounted patrol in Baghdad. Oustanding family. As I recall, they live on "Liberty Lane", which I thought was appropriate for the sacrifice given by their son. I had never met him, but felt it appropriate to attend his funeral and honor his sacrifice.

    Tammy Swofford