Touching the Dragon: And Other Techniques for Surviving Life's Wars by James Hatch & Christian D'Andrea

Touching the Dragon: And Other Techniques for Surviving Life's Wars by James Hatch & Christian D'Andrea

Author:James Hatch & Christian D'Andrea
Language: eng
Format: mobi
ISBN: 9780451494689
Publisher: Knopf
Published: 2018-05-15T04:00:00+00:00

Thirty miles away, we landed at Andrews Air Force Base, where we were off-loaded from the C-17 and driven to Bethesda Naval Hospital.

As we came into sight, Kelley could see that the ambulance she was expecting was actually a bus. I remember that bus. It was a Blue Bird school bus built in the ’60s, shellacked with a dull white paint job. And being that I was situated in the back, every bump we hit during that ride resulted in jarring violence, which caused me to make constructive remarks such as “What the fuck!” I’m an average, not an excessive, complainer, but this particular instance of resource management deserves an aside: We are a country that has stealth bombers, but we can’t give battle-damaged carcasses a smooth ride in a nice Prevost?

The Blue Bird pulled up and they started to unload us, one gurney at a time. Kelley was there with Avenue. It was strange for Kelley, who hadn’t seen such a thing before. There was no calling of names as the men were off-loaded, one at a time. The primary noise was the clacking of roller wheels and the creak of metal gurney frames. She also couldn’t really see anybody on the gurneys, in the sense that she couldn’t see any part of a body that would identify it as a body. There was the gauze, but now there was also a small mountain of machinery stacked on top of the rolling beds. “First of all, I was wondering, ‘What’s under there?’ and second, I was thinking, ‘How are they even alive?’ ” recalls Kelley. “Obviously, you could draw the conclusion that someone was on each gurney, buried under all that equipment that was being used to keep them alive. But it was genuinely eerie, upsetting, and a shock to my system, because there was no visual indication that there was a human there. You felt horrible for these guys.” And as she watched all of these massive casualty cases being taken off the bus, waiting for me to be hauled out, she couldn’t help but reflect, Oh my God, I thought all they had to do was sew up Jimmy’s leg.

She now feared that I’d be gauze and hoses, too.

What she didn’t know was that there was an order to things. The more severely injured people were off-loaded first.

As I was brought off the bus, I was lifted onto a rolling hospital bed, and a young Marine slotted into position to push me. Rolling along, I saw Avenue, Ace, and Kelley, and noticed that my wife had a look of shock on her face and she was crying. But it wasn’t about me or her. Yes, she was surprised by the array of rigging around me, having let herself hope that a leg wound was somehow not too severe a thing. But she was also relieved when she saw me, because comparatively speaking, I wasn’t as badly off as the others.


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