BAGRAM AIR BASE, Afghanistan (AP) — The urgent call came in: Roadside bombs had ripped through two Humvees and wounded eight or nine U.S. soldiers.
Medevac helicopters immediately hit the air to ferry the soldiers to the main U.S. military hospital. But when they arrived, they carried only five patients. ...
It started when two roadside bombs hit the same convoy of 10th Mountain Division soldiers only a couple of miles apart in Wardak, a province west of Kabul. The damage was so severe that one of the Humvees split in half.
By the time the helicopters arrived, four men were already dead. Their comrades loaded them into body bags, tense with anger and grief. ...
As the medics worked, with the American flag in the background, they sweated. The heat was turned up because critically injured patients cannot regulate their own body temperatures.
A soldier screamed, so loudly that emergency room physician Capt. Travis Taylor couldn't tune it out. The soldier, who had an open fracture, had just learned one of his buddies was killed.
"That one was tough," Taylor said. "He was really screaming, and it snapped me out of my focus on the patient I was with."
Another soldier, Pfc. Anthony Vandegrift, had broken both legs. His left eye was swollen shut. The two soldiers in the front of his Humvee were killed, along with the gunner who had been standing halfway out the top.
He called his father while still on the emergency room table.
"I said, 'Hey dad, remember how you told me not to join the infantry? Well, I don't regret it, but I got blown up,'" Vandegrift, of Mililani, Hawaii, said.
Doctors at Bagram say there is nowhere in the world — except other war zones — where physicians face such severe wounds day after day. That constant stream takes a toll. ...
[Air Force Capt. Shannan] Corbin says home bases try to prepare the medical staff "mentally, emotionally and spiritually" for the deployment, but she's not sure it works.
"You can see pictures. You can hear people talk, but I don't know that anything really prepares you," said the 39-year-old nurse from Biloxi, Miss. "We hope emotionally and mentally that it's just another string of events. But I don't know how we can walk away from this as just another string of events."
In the intensive care ward nearby, Vandegrift lay beside the one other soldier in his Humvee who survived. The soldier may be paralyzed.
Holding a guitar, Vandegrift strummed a song for his friend: "The Star-Spangled Banner."
The four Soldiers who were killed in the line of duty on June 1, 2009 in Nerkh, Afghanistan were: SSG Jeffrey A. Hall, SGT Jasper K. Obakrairur, PFC Matthew D. Ogden, and PFC Matthew W. Wilson, all of the 2nd BN, 87th Infantry Reg, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division.
SSG Heathe N. Craig, for whom the hospital is named, was a member of the 159th Medical Company (Air Ambulance) based in Wiesbaden, Germany. He died the night of June 21, 2006 during a rescue mission near Naray, Afghanistan.
Here's the accompaying video to this story. You'll want to take the graphic content warning seriously if you are unaccustomed to seeing trauma care images such as open wounds.