Where Angels Walk
“I’ve had men ask me… Am I going to be ok? You never say no. You never tell the truth. Sometimes you don't speak, but more often than not you have to lie. You can not tell a man who’s scared to death that he has only a few minutes to live. You have to force a smile and give them as much comfort as you can. Later this moment will haunt you. It will haunt you that you lied, and you will wish that you could somehow have made those words true. You send him off to whatever lies after death, with a lie. But it is better you tell this lie, than a poor young man spends his last minutes in abject terror.”
Doc Bailey - AKA - The Mad Medic
This piece is dedicated to Mr. Mishler a Vietnam Veteran and his son, a combat medic, nurse and first responder who will be leaving for Liberia in a few weeks to fight the Ebola virus because “it’s the right thing to do.” I can’t imagine the dueling feelings of fear and pride you must feel as a father. I’m guessing the apple didn’t fall far from the tree? Your words and your son’s actions inspire me. Godspeed and God Bless!
1. great courage in the face of danger, especially in battle.
When I was a boy I had a good friend whose father had known a combat medic (corpsman) in Vietnam. We loved to listen to my friend’s father tell war stories after school before we went outside and reenacted our own versions of these heroic battles. At the time these stories seemed surreal like something you’d read in a book or watch on a 13 Channel television (yes I’m that old). The tales were often very graphic and upon reflection perhaps a bit too much for our young minds to fathom but I realize now that telling these stories allowed my friend’s father to exercise his own demons and guilt for the death of his friend in a war in which he was not able to participate. While I’ve long since forgotten most of these stories, there is one that I’ve never been able to let go…
He talked of a now nameless battle somewhere in the bowels of a hot, humid Vietnamese jungle. The platoon with which he was stationed was working its way across a waist high field of grass towards a treeline some 75 yards away. “Doc” was near the rear of platoon. He heard the explosion before he saw it and then another. Then the screams of agony, the begging and the pleading. When the familiar cry of “Corpsman Up” rang out “Doc” was already sprinting across the field, that’s when the first flashes of light rang out from both sides of the treeline.
The platoon had been ambushed. Marines dropped in place as they were struck. He raced forward through the hail of gunfire, bullets whipping overhead. When he reached the first Marine it was clear that he’d stepped on a mine, both legs sheared off at the knees. He applied tourniquets to stop the bleeding and attempted to locate the limbs. Thats when he saw the second Marine face down in the mud, abdomen shredded and missing an arm. Again, “Doc” applied a tourniquet, pressure dressings to stop the bleeding and covered the eviscerated bowels.
While the platoon returned fire he hoisted the first Marine over his shoulder and ran back to the cover of the trees before turning to get the next. All the while operating with complete disregard to his own safety, focused solely on the preservation of his brothers who lay wounded and dying. For more than two hours “Doc” raced across that field to provide comfort and care. Struck twice by gunfire he never stopped to treat his own wounds. A sniper’s round tragically ended his life on a final trip across the clearing. “Doc” died somewhere in a nameless field in Vietnam a hero, doing what he and so many before and after him have done without a second thought.
I often wondered about the accuracy of this account. How much had been distorted by time or the fog of war? That was until I began to research this piece. Time after time, I discovered incredible acts of valor demonstrated by medics and corpsmen dating back as far as the Civil War. Men and women who propelled themselves into harms way and almost certain death to provide care, compassion and mercy to those in need.
1. a person, who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities.
“Doc”, Medic, Corpsman, Devil Doc, Whiskey, Battlefield Angel…the name matters little to those whose life depends on their service. These unsung heroes go where others dare not. They go to those in agony, despair and unfathomable suffering. I don’t know if anyone who hasn’t experienced the horrors of battle can imagine the physical trauma and mental anguish that these “angels” endure in the line of duty. Shattered bones, burnt and unrecognizable flesh, organs torn or ripped away, eardrums ruptured and limbs at the shoulder and/or pelvis cut away or horribly disfigured, just a sample of what they face. Not to mention the anguish of providing comfort and support to a fallen brother or sister as you watch them take their final breaths. Just imagine the responsibility of caring for another human being in the final moments of their life.
Combat medics and Corpsman are a rare breed of selfless human beings who since the beginnings of our nation have served our armed forces and their country with an almost superhuman ability to remain calm, focused and compassionate in moments of unimaginable pressure and danger. They say that courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that something else is more important than fear. I can think of no better description of the actions of these incredible men and women As one veteran stated “ there is no job in the insanity of close combat that requires more bravery and coolness under fire than that of the combat medic. They are the bravest of the brave”
1. the ability to do something that frightens one.
The Combat Medics and Corpsman are and always will be heroes within their respective generations. Throughout history and through every major conflict, crises or humanitarian event they have risen to the challenge and given themselves completely and selflessly to minimize human suffering and death. The impact of their actions is irrefutable; roughly one soldier dies out of every eight wounded in battle today, compared with a mortality rate of one for every 2.4 in World War II and one for every three in Vietnam. Many experts attribute these improvements to the speed and quality of care provided at the frontlines. And while its easy to recognize the positive impact that these heroes have made, it’s just as easy to forget that this too comes at a cost. The emotional strain of what they’ve seen and done in recent wars, the amputations, burns and shattered bodies has taken a toll on all of our medical combat professionals but most specifically the Combat Medics and Corpsman. In closing, I ask that as a country we embrace these heroes and provide them with the same compassion and comfort that they have given to the countless others that they have touched.
-By Scott Seymour
Up at the front and filled with fear, he pleads with God, don't leave me here.
Wounded and bleeding and hunched with pain, thrown on his back in the mud and the rain
Others went down, some hit, all scared; no one moved, no one dared.
We'd moved swiftly through the paddy mire, and then it happened; enemy fire
It's Corpsman Up," when things get hot, the nearest thing to God, we've got
"Corpsman Up," to save a breath. "Corpsman Up," in the face of death.
Stop the bleeding, treat for shock; no time for hesitation "Doc"
Patch him up and get him back; back to the rear; call a medevac
Operating room well lit and clean; Doctors waiting, dressed in green.
Operate with speed and skill, experts with a determined will.
Save lives or limbs to save dreams, no matter how impossible it seems.
Work on in a sweat in mud and grime; to save a life . . . there's not much time.
You joined the navy to learn your trade, went to school, and made the grade.
It's "Corpsman Up," when the rounds are flying; "Corpsman Up," when men are dying.
You're one of us, a grunt of grit; like it or not you just can't quit.
"Corpsman Up," step from the ranks. "Corpsman Up," and accept our thanks.
About Scott Seymour
The son of an avid outdoorsman and early waterman, Scott Seymour was born into an adventurous lifestyle. Having spent most of his formative years along the remote beaches of Baja California and the dusty backroads of nearly every mountain range on the western edge of North America he understands what its like to live off the beaten path and on the road less travelled. Those early years were spent diving, surfing, fishing, mountaineering, exploring, prospecting and getting lost and found literally and figuratively on a regular basis. While an atypical childhood it may have been, it forged an adventurous spirit and a thirst for life that has continued to guide him through adulthood.
As a collegiate volleyball player at UCLA, Scott developed a passion for teamwork and helping others meet their maximum potential. He went on to build a successful career leading and managing highly efficient sales teams for various national and global organizations. In 2008, feeling that familiar yearning for adventure he made a career 180 and for the past several years has worked as a bail and recovery agent in Southern California. Scott is also a registered EMT and first responder and will be starting the fire academy in January of this year with the goal of becoming a paramedic.
A self proclaimed “gear junkie” Scott can still be found most days researching and testing new equipment and strategies while stand up paddling, surfing or exploring the coastlines of Southern California or Mexico.
He resides in San Clemente with his wife and two junior watermen.