In August 2004 I was deployed to Iraq. Working as a combat medic with a FRSS attached to 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, I witnessed a little bit of everything. Most of the time our battalion was hit with indirect fire, mortar rounds and if someone was hurt during night ambushes, including civilians, we were the first call.
Although providing medical care to numerous Iraqis was part of our mission, it was the compassion and care we exchanged that I believe had a lasting impact. In one situation, my medical team performed life saving surgery on a young Iraqi woman, who was hit by shrapnel. Along with treating several more wounded. Sleep was never an option, nor was leaving her side. In those dark moments, when your main focus is caring for another human being, camaraderie is established.
That same camaraderie carried through as members of our battalion worked to rebuild schools and construct water filtration systems, which provided clean water for drinking and cooking. The things we easily take for granted were often life changing for the Iraqi people.
Our human acts and good deeds significantly supported our progress in Iraq. By helping these impoverished people with such basic needs, we were able to foster stability and create trust. It was a language we all spoke, an action we all responded to.