I was talking to a retired army medic last night. He had been shot three times (with one bullet still in him), served in three wars (Vietnam, Panama, and Gulf I), and yet he did not regret his army career.
In response to my noting that nurses tend to be very touchy-feely, perhaps due to the physical nature of their work, he told me of the greatest benefit to being an army medic. Being shot at is no fun, but during peacetime, medic battallions are often sent out on field exercises, for weeks at a time. Five hundred nurses all alone in the woods, with nothing to do at night. Of these five hundred nurses, maybe thirty would be men, and as my friend put it, “about twenty of these guys didn’t really care for women.” So that makes for a ratio of about forty five lonely female nurses for every straight guy. Four hundred and seventy nurses, healthy, young and horny, all alone in the forest with only ten fellows to keep them company at night. There was never a porno movie made with such an exciting premise. And this man lived it.
Beyond the salacious sylvan romps, I learned some other things about being an army medic. After college, he joined the army in 1974, as they would train him to become a full registered nurse (he had not gone to a nursing school, but to a regular college on a basketball scholarship). He figured he was safe, because the Vietnam War was winding down. He was mistaken. His whole graduating class got sent to Vietnam in 1975 to mop up the dead and wounded. Of his medic battallion, half were killed. No-one had told the Viet-Cong that medics are protected by the Geneva Convention. As all the fighting troops had gone home, he and his fellow medics worked unprotected, as he described it, “while we matched body parts and put them into body bags.” Retired, at the age of fifty one, the Army tried to talk him into going back into service two years ago for the Iraq War, ostensibly to train and teach. He laughed and refused when they asked him. When I noted that, had he reenlisted, the Army could have reneged and sent him anywhere that they wanted, including the war zone, he agreed that, “they have a way of doing that.”
It is worth noting that he found one shared trait among the surviving nurses — they all played army as kids, so had honed the instincts of acting smart and staying low under fire, even in play.
This man loved his career as a nurse and medic, with the good and the bad. So for the young man looking for his way in the world, eager for adventure and female attention, go out into the woods, play war, and dream of being an Army medic.