True to his word Fergy appeared at daybreak and setting down the chopper he immediately helped Michael on board and headed for the base.After landing Michael had his papers and Id scrutinized by the MP’s and he was escorted to a large wooden building where he would be issued all the necessary items for his stay at the base.Once he had gathered his equipment a marine corporal led him to the living quarters which he would share with five other physicians.After placing his gear in his storage locker he was taken to the office of the chief medical officer Colonel Barry Bultz.
As Michael entered the medical office he was greeted by a tall lanky officer who looked more like a college basketball forward then a commanding medical officer. Michael guessed that Colonel Bultz was in his early forties when in fact he was actually fifty six..”Good morning Michael I am sure you feel that you are a long way from Bellevue”.It was apparent that Colonel Bultz had read Michael’s dossier.”Welcome to your new home .Your stay here will be vastly different than any other part of your medical career..It might help if I give you my background as a frame of reference. I was a vascular surgeon at Case Western and held an academic position in the Medical faculty. I thought before Vietnam that I had experienced every conceivable form of surgical trauma but I was dead ass wrong.I have experienced medical challenges here that are beyond the scope of any surgical experience in any trauma unit in the states. Most of what is natural to you as a surgeon is almost useless here.There will be challenges beyond your skills and training..Every day you will make immediate life and death calls. There will be no pre surgery conferences and at times you will be one of three surgeons performing surgery on the same marine at the same time..You will work under conditions such as enemy shelling,insects ,intolerable heat and at times the least sterile environment possible.You will see injuries that are not in any textbook and at times you will pass a wounded Marine who is still alive but soon will be dead in order to attend to another that has a chance to live. Michael thought the image being portrayed was rather dark but he listened intently in silence.
“Our job here is to keep these kids repaired and ready for combat.There is no time for opinions about the war, and realize that you are here as part of a marine unit that is at war. My last bit of advice is to not let your emotions or feelings get in the way.These are mostly kids who a year ago were playing varsity basketball, and going to their high school prom. It will sear your soul if you allow their stories to penetrate your heart so try to keep the diagnosis and surgery your focus.”