The Guardian: A US medical evacuation crew chief recounts the most traumatic mission he has ever flown
The first patient, she had her left leg completely blown off. Her right leg was into a mush. It really wasn't much left but muscle. Her left arm was gone, and it was bandaged up. She was one of the most beautiful girls I've ever seen before, and she was adorable, but she was covered in blood and dirt. And it was very hard, 'cause I have a—and she might have been seven, eight years old. I have a five-year-old daughter. It's very hard dealing with kids. Once we realized that these kids were bad off, we threw them on the bird. I took my daughter—or my—sorry—my girl. And my little girl was five years old, and she had—her left leg was mangled. There was really nothing left of it. There was just muscle tissue. It was bad. That was the longest flight I've ever had. It was only a couple of minutes, but it was the longest flight. The little girl with the tri-amputees, she had a thousand-yard stare, where she's just kind of staring off into space. She was already given drugs for pain, but she was already fading out. My little girl, I was holding her hand and I was comforting her as best as I can. It's very hard, because they are scared of the US soldiers. And it's very hard, because there's a language barrier, and you're trying to. But love is an international sign, and everybody can speak that international language. You can hold them and show them affection, but show them that it's going to be okay, even though they are scared and there's nothing you can do about it.
I had a very hard problem, a very hard time. I could not look at the girl with the tri-amputees. It was very cowardice to know that this was this little girl's last breaths on earth, and she was in the back of a helicopter, and there was nothing I could do about it. There was—I—it was hard just to know that she was going to die and that I didn't have the common courtesy to at least look at her and hold her. And that's something that's rough, and it's hard to look at somebody knowing that they're going to die and there's nothing you can do about it. Our little girl, she was fading away. And if only we can get her fast enough, only if we can get her into the FST fast enough, we can maybe save her. And once we pulled them out, we had to make the decision, because we still had three or four more urgent surgicals in the back of , we had to make the decision to put on the fricking ground and take off. And that was—you can't. You can't do that. You can't, as a human, leave another human hurt on the ground. But we had to do it.
And, you know, we're 24 years old, we're, you know, 25, 26. We're young. Who says we need to make that decision? But we had to, because we had to save those other lives. I've never had so much blood in a helicopter before. And you're there, you're washing, but you can't wash it all out. Like, there's always stuff there. It's always in your nooks and crannies. The smell is always there. It'll never go away. And that was the worst mission—one of the worst missions I—that was the worst mission I've ever been on. It shut me down for awhile.