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Mercy & Valor: When good men don't come home.


David Hart, Iraq 2007


Doc is a very coveted tittle. It's one I'm very proud to have held.


When your job is to save someone who's been wounded in war, it's an unspoken and well understood rule that not everybody gets to come home. Everybody is family in a platoon, but nobody is stupid. If you're going to war, it's silently understood that not everybody gets to come back.


I've spent years deployed in the War on Terror in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. The worst day I've ever had in all those times was hands down January 8th, 2008. I would be in much bigger fights in my future deployments but this day completely rearranged my DNA. To make a very long story short, my platoon was ambushed in very complicated terrain with limited visibility and by a well dug in and prepared enemy. It was close, it was fierce and it was very scary.



Over the course of the fight, I would have five teammates who were down, a whole platoon spread out in reeds so thick that visibility was limited to 5-10 feet in some areas, and all while exchanging automatic fire and hand grenades with the enemy. Many of my teammates would be decorated for valor for their actions that day. This included a silver star for one of my squad leaders. I can't speak for everyone, but I'm very sure this was the worst day of allot of people's lives.


The worst memories I have as "Doc" all come from this day. The most intense involved treating one of my team leaders, David, after he'd been wounded trying to get to his men. David was probably the most beloved member of the entire battalion. Everyone loved him, his soldiers, his peers and his leadership. Every new soldier wanted to be under his guidance and every officer wanted him as an NCO. You couldn't ask for a better man, soldier or leader in a platoon.


David had been wounded while moving up to the front of the ambush. He was trying to get to his men who were also wounded and still in contact. He was brought to me by a team of men who carried him out of the ambush and his wounds were very severe. He had been shot in the head, he was in critical condition and his airway was badly compromised. The most beloved man in the entire unit was at my feet and the world was erupting all around me. This was the most "oh shit" moment I would ever experience as a medic and the intensity of the contact wasn't making things any better.


David was an incredible human. I only knew him for a short time, but I knew he was a better man by twenty-two than I would be in my entire life. This hurt a great deal because as I treated David, I realized the extent of his injuries and knew the most I could do was put all the odds in his favor. His wounds were not compatible with life and I knew this very early on in treating him. Despite this, we were determined to give him every chance we could.

I'm not going to beat around the bush, David needed an emergency surgical airway and another medic and myself performed the procedure together on our knees and behind the cover of an eleven fourteen. The emergency surgical airway is a nightmare scenario for any medic, let alone while still in contact, on your own teammate and on the most loved man in the entire unit. I think Kyle and I could both feel David's clock was ticking and time wasn't our friend at that moment. I was so focused on what we were doing that everything around me seemed to drift off and go silent. I can't even express how thankful I was that I wasn't alone at that moment. Kyle will always be a hero to me and he deserves all the credit in the world for his actions that day.


Memorial service for Operation Fulton


Our platoon lost three teammates that day. I think about that fight and David every day. This goes true for Shane, Allan, Phillip and Ivan too. Words can't describe how we feel as "Doc" when we have to get down beside one of our own guys. We would give our last drop of blood to keep you in the world and send you back to your family, but we know it just doesn't work that way. Some fights you just can't win and this was one of them.




David's injuries were not compatible with life. I knew that very early on and so did the other medic who treated him with me. I was kneeling over a man who was better than me and I knew nothing I did would be enough. It's a very helpless feeling and I don't wish it on anyone. I was looking in the face of true heroism and valor and I knew I couldn't be the hero he needed me to be. This man was mortally wounded braving enemy fire to get to his wounded men. He was every bit the man any boy dreams of growing up to be and his family should be proud they raised such a man.



Nicole Hart and family, 2008


I had never actually seen real valor and heroism before. Men who wouldn't leave each other's side, wounded teammates dragging each other out of the fight and leaders who refused to leave any of their men behind. It was my job to be the "angel of the battlefield" and bring mercy to the wounded. The whole time I worked on David, I knew I wouldn't be able to give him that mercy. I knew his condition was not survivable and still we tried to give him every chance we could. Mercy and valor go hand in hand on any battlefield, but they can't always produce the outcome we desire. Sometimes all we have to give is a good fight. I like to think that's what David gave that day.


I've never known another man like David Hart. I think about him every hour of every day of my life. I can imagine his family feels the pain of this loss every day. I just hope they also feel the pride of knowing what an amazing human he was.


"Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends"







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3 Comments


Thank you for this, David was one of my closest and dearest friends throughout high school and beyond. I miss him every day

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Thank you for sharing this difficult but important story. David was one of the best men I’ve known and the truest of friends . It’s a gift to hear how his fellow soldiers saw him, and to hear about your heroic work to save him. We honor him today and every day.

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Nic
Nic
Jan 08

8. Always 8.

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