Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Heroes are Everywhere

Heroes can appear anywhere, suddenly and without warning. It's amazing how many heroes a person can find if you open your eyes and look. There's the obvious heroes: the first responders to an accident or disaster and our service men and women. Police and firefighters are always heroes in my book, as are those who volunteer to protect this Country and its ideals. But then there's the less obvious heroes. Those who quietly go about their business, yet still manage to impact the lives of others in a positive way. I kind of agree with journalist Ellen Goodman who wrote, "I have never been especially impressed by the heroics of people who are convinced they are about to change the world. I am more awed by those who struggle to make one small difference after another."

I guess that's why I was touched by a story on about civilian doctors who volunteer to work alongside military doctors at Landstuhl Military Hospital in Germany as a part of a visiting scholars program. The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons and the Orthopedic Trauma Association sponsors the program, where civilian doctors who have at least 10 years of trauma experience travel to Landstuhl to train military surgeons. The goal is to share knowledge and experience so that military surgeons can save the lives of our service men and women injured in combat. In my opinion, these doctors, the military docs as well as the civilian ones, exemplify those quiet heroes that "struggle to make one small difference after another."

It's clear that these Doctors don't want adulation or praise. They just want to help, to learn, and to make a difference. They want to serve. As one of the civilian doctors who participated in the program, Dr. Dean Lorich, said, "From my standpoint, you just can't say no to going. No matter how much of an inconvenience--if you believe what our country is about, you go when you're asked." Now that's the attitude of a hero. Dr. Lorich understands that being a hero isn't all about doing big things to get your name in lights, its all about (to paraphrase Bob Dylan) understanding the degree of responsibility that comes with freedom.

Dr. Lorich also treated a few heroes while participating in the program. He treated a Special Ops Soldier who broke both his legs in and IED attack. When Dr. Lorich told this highly trained Soldier that he wouldn't have normal function on his left side, and might do better if the leg was amputated. The Soldier said to do whatever was necessary to get him back to his unit. According to Dr. Lorich, that Soldier's dedication to his mission and his unit inspired him and changed the way he looked at life. Dr. Lorich said, "It's a totally humbling experience. You leave different from when you went. It makes you appreciate your home and your family. It was just life altering." According to Dr. Lorich, the military doctors he worked with and trained are also real heroes. He was impressed with their caring and dedication to their patients. He said, "You just can't believe what these guys do.' Dr. Lorich wouldn't hesitate to go back to Landstuhl and work with these heroes.
Although he was the trauma expert, sent there to train our military surgeons, he said that he "definitely took more away from it that I gave." Those are the words and the attitude of a hero.

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