1. Flynn, Terrence E. RN, MSN

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Editor's Note: LTC Flynn was injured and returned to the States before the rest of the unit. He sent this letter to his colleagues still in Iraq. - -J.A.P.


Although I have learned many "new" perspectives in my transition from healthcare provider to casualty this past 2 months, the thing that will stick out the most is this: "I got it."


No, I'm not talking about the new Gatorade advertising campaign, yet I will admit I miss the unlimited access to free Gatorade we had at the mess hall. Instead, I refer to our own recognition of what and how we expect ourselves, and the other service members around us, to respect and appreciate each other and the importance of the mission we are engaged in.


When we first started out in Colorado and then on to Kuwait and finally Baghdad (Figure 7), there was a slow but steady growth and acceptance of our situation and the mission we had been asked to undertake. As time moved on, people would comment as to whether or not someone "got it." It meant that each individual had moved past the self-centered, egotistical, selfishness of garrison life and job, life style, position, and titles to forming that team-oriented, others-first, and selfless attitude that earned respect and reliability from your colleagues, subordinates, and leadership under very austere and difficult circumstances. Did it happen to all who deployed with us? Unfortunately it did not. Now I can see what a tremendous loss of opportunity for those who never "got it." But then, from that day to this and beyond [horizontal ellipsis] they will never understand. Some people just don't "get it"!!

Figure 7 - Click to enlarge in new windowFigure 7. LTC Flynn in Baghdad.

At Walter Reed Army Medical Center, as I had my surgery and started my recovery, I saw many others who had it so much worse than I did, yet I was treated as a "brother" veteran[horizontal ellipsis]injured, hurt, in pain, and worried about the future. No one laughed at how I was injured (although the Chaplain in Germany told me to think up a better story than falling down and breaking my elbow[horizontal ellipsis]as did a few others at Walter Reed. "Hey Chaplain, isn't that lying?") I was a casualty of war. Granted, not a Purple Heart casualty, but a casualty nonetheless. So many people came to my hospital room and asked what they could do for me and my family: the American Red Cross; the Veterans Administration; the Disabled American Veterans; Wounded Warrior Project; the Veterans of Foreign Wars; the American Legion; and countless other military and civilian organizations and personnel. I met sports figures, TV and movie celebrities, and many senior general officers from every service branch. All wanted to offer support and a helping hand to a soldier. These people all "get it." They visited the soldiers because they wanted to be there and because they care about something beyond themselves. Cher spent hours talking and visiting with family and soldiers individually, she didn't just sign autographs and rush on. Not quick photo opportunities, but honest and heartfelt generosity of time. Maybe she isn't a healthcare provider, but she helped make a lot of people feel better. She "gets it"!!


You are all coming down to the wire. Soon you'll return to garrison life, family, and your former place in the world [horizontal ellipsis] and it will not be Iraq!! Trust me, I know this well. What you will see and find are people who don't "get it." That small percentage that never "got it" in Iraq, are here in volume and will be thinking more about themselves than about you. However, the bonds you have forged in Iraq, as that special group of people that you have grown into, will endure well past your time there. Remember this when you're frustrated by little things and a lack of appreciation from those who have never worn your shoes for where you have been and what you have done these past months. Find a veteran, another soldier, especially one of the severely wounded ones, and look into their eyes when you tell them you were in Iraq as a medic, nurse, or a doctor, and a soldier. In an instant, you will get that nod of appreciation that says "you got it."


How do I know? On the first Friday I returned to the United States, I was invited to a dinner at a nice restaurant in Washington, DC. It was my last weekend (finally) before going into the hospital for surgery. I felt awkward and out of place as most all the other patients had been there for weeks, even months, recovering from severe injuries. Many patients had family members along as well. I was alone, as my family had not yet arrived. Onto the bus, in a wheelchair, came a soldier that looked vaguely familiar. When the leader announced his name, I recognized it immediately. He had been a casualty at the 10th CSH a couple days before I was injured. He was already healing and progressing, thanks to the work done by all of you to save his life in the EMT, OR, and ICU. The bus was informed that I was the "new" guy and was from the 10th CSH. Before the evening was through, I had many soldiers and their loved ones tell me their stories and thank me for saving lives and express how grateful they were that the 10th CSH was there for them. You see they "get it" too. Before I left Washington, I met many more patients whose lives were saved at the 10th CSH by your sacrifice and dedication to duty and the casualties.


So my brothers (and sisters) [horizontal ellipsis] you get it [horizontal ellipsis] and real soon you'll have achieved an even greater success. As Larry the Cable Guy would say on the Blue Collar Comedy Tour, you've got to "get "r" done" when something tough comes along.


In the eyes, hearts, and minds of the thousands of soldiers and civilians you have treated, and all those who understand it back here: you "got it" and[horizontal ellipsis]you "got "r" done."