A Wounded Healer

A November 2, 2006, New York Times article, “Tending a Fallen Marine, With Skill, Prayer and Fury,” documented the story of Petty Officer Third Class Dustin E. Kirby, age 22, a trauma medic assigned to the Second Mobile Assault Platoon of Weapons Company, Second Battalion, Eighth Marines, as he tended to Lance Cpl. Colin Smith, age 19, a fellow soldier who had been shot in the head by an Iraqi sniper just outside Karma, a city near Falluja in Anbar Province, Iraq. “Doc” Kirby stabilized the wounded marine, who was transported to the nearest medical facility by helicopter within 12 minutes of being shot.

The Times reporter described Kirby’s emotional response: “He held his bloody hands before his face to examine them. They were shaking. He made fists so tight his veins bulged. His forearms started to bounce.… ‘In situations and times like this, I am bound to start yelling and shouting furiously,’ he said.”

Kirby himself was later wounded by another Iraqi sniper eight weeks later, on an otherwise quiet Christmas afternoon. His jaw and upper palate were damaged extensively by the sniper’s bullet that struck the left side of his face. Sometime later, after several operations and on ventilator support, Kirby was still alive, although he could not speak. He subsequently returned stateside to Bethesda Naval Medical Center in Maryland for further care.

In his book, The Living Reminder, Henri J. M. Nouwen states that those who minister are called to heal by reminding people of their wounded past and by connecting their wounds with the wounds of all humanity.

Petty Officer Dustin E. Kirby, a trauma medic, is now a wounded healer. As such, his wounds are connected with the wounds of Lance Cpl. Colin Smith, and with the wounds of all humanity.

In his novel, A Farewell to Arms, Ernest Hemingway, commenting on those wounded in war, notes that “finally only the names of places had dignity. Certain numbers were the same way and certain dates and these with the names of the places were all you could say and have them mean anything. Abstract words such as glory, honor, courage, or hallow were obscene beside the concrete names of villages, the number of roads, the names of rivers, the number of regiments and the dates.”

A rural settlement on the western edge of Karma, a city near Falluja in Anbar Province, Iraq. Second Mobile Assault Platoon of Weapons Company, Second Battalion, Eighth Marines. October 30th, 2006; December 25th, 2006.

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