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MEDICS PICK UP THE PIECES.

Byline: MAXINE FLAM Local View

FROM the Revolutionary War to Operation Iraqi Freedom, men and women have answered the military's call to protect America from foes foreign and domestic. Some have paid the ultimate price: They have given their lives defending America.

The John Wayne war movies of the 1950s show a sanitized version of war. In one scene there would be some shooting and the next scene a couple of soldiers would be in a foxhole smoking or playing cards. If the soldiers were wounded, the movie would play out as a romance novel with the wounded GI dating the nurse on duty.

Real war, of course, isn't like this. It's a dirty, brutal, deadly, chaotic business. And in the middle of the chaos is the medic. Medics are the people who many times stand between life and death of soldiers or civilians.

This Memorial Day, the stories of two medics, some 60 years apart, come to my mind. One is from World War II, and the other is from Operation Iraqi Freedom. Their sole purpose: To save lives.

The first medic is my father, Sidney Flam. Dad was drafted before World War II at the age of 22. The second is Joel Buchannan, a San Fernando Valley native, who volunteered for the military at the age of 17. My father served 4(bul) years, 17 months of that time in Europe. Joel has served a total of 12 years, counting a break in service -- 9 months in Desert Storm and one year in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Both men received medals of commendation, and Joel has been wounded twice.

Both have seen death and have personal stories. Most of the stories show a degree of detachment, yet when a certain person who died is spoken of, that detachment melts away.

Dad told me the following story: He was in a bunker the night before a planned attack on the Germans. Lt. McGuire was mapping out the campaign. This went on for several hours. At dawn, the campaign began -- the men were on the move. Someone called for a medic. Dad came over and there was Lt. McGuire, dead. He was decapitated. There wasn't a thing Dad could do to help him. Every time Dad told that story, I could see the pain in his eyes.

Joel had a medic assigned to him: Russell H. Nahbi. Nahbi was killed while on patrol when his Humvee hit an Improvised Explosive Device. Joel told me over the phone that Nahvi's death bothered him greatly.

Many times, my father missed eating because the medics were recovering bodies or treating the wounded. One mealtime, my father and two other guys were called to go down the road because a tank had been hit and the medics were needed to see if the men were alive. Dad grabbed a piece of bread and meat and left. When he opened the tank, the men were dead and in pieces. Dad pushed the sandwich into his mouth to free up his hands and began lowering the arms and legs of the men down to the stretcher below.

Detached -- you betcha. Dad still had to eat, and the dead still had to be taken care of.

Joel was in Balad when three car bombs exploded all around him. He was the only medic available to treat 71 people. Forty-six were children. All were Iraqi civilians. The hospitals were overflowing, so Joel had no choice but to treat them on the street. Out of 71, Joel saved all but nine.

Joel was wounded twice and will receive his second purple heart shortly. In Desert Storm, he was hit in his chest and cracked two ribs. During Iraqi Freedom, his injuries were more extensive. His Bradley tank hit an IED. The IED flipped the tank 90 degrees straight up. Picture a 64,000 pound vehicle looking like a Tonka Toy when it hit the ground. Pieces flew everywhere. Joel broke both his ankles and ruptured an ear drum.

Two medics -- two wars. Different stories but one message. Military men and women put their lives on the line so we can be free. Today we honor those men and women who didn't make it back and thank the medics who made the difference between life and death.

On this Memorial Day, the unofficial start of summer, take a moment to remember those who have given their lives for their country. And while you stop and think about all the brave men and women who did not return to their families, take another moment to remember the ones who did return because of the field medics.
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Title Annotation:Viewpoint
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:May 28, 2006
Words:774
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