Tag Archives: Air Force

Mid-Week Review-The Loss of a Shipmate, Hospital Duty is Not Easy and No Rational Thought Goes Unpunished

Today has been tough, actually it began yesterday.  We lost a dear shipmate this week. Hospital Corpsman Chief Pam Branum passed away while deployed on the USNS Comfort while on a humanitarian deployment.  She was the Leading Chief Petty Officer for our Critical Care Department, a great leader, genuinely nice person, and dear friend to many in our department.  She was passionate about her work and her people.  She set high standards for herself and worked hard to make sure that her Corpsmen were trained and became good not only what they do, but to help develop them as leaders with character.  She supported the nursing staff that she worked with as a friend and mentor.  She was like a mom to a lot of our staff.  Her loss at the age of 41 was shocking.  This has been a tough year for us in the Medical Center, back in April we lost a 4th Year Medical Student who just in a few weeks would have become a physician and started his internship and residency here.  We have lost a number of other staff members, active duty and civilian since December.  When we lose them we lose part of our family.  Those who have never served in the military cannot fully fathom how losses like this affect the rest of us.  I will be working with our staff and helping to plan Chief’s memorial service and maybe depending on the location the funeral.  Chief Branum will be sorely missed, I am still somewhat in shock.  Please keep her family, friends and co-workers in your prayers.  A link to the Blog of the Executive Officer of the USNS Comfort is here:   http://comfort-xo.blogspot.com/2009/06/thank-you-chief-may-you-rest-in-peace.html?showComment=1244112525886#c1602797664780974312

Another aspect of this difficult year is the number of our military staff being deployed.  Our “deployers” support current operations in Iraq, the Gulf, Horn of Africa and the Afghanistan surge.  Many have already been deployed, are getting ready to do so or are waiting for word.  Many have made other combat deployments in Iraq either with the Marines, Expeditionary Medical Facilities and Shock and Trauma units.  Sometimes they are sent on joint assignments helping train Afghan and Iraqi medical personnel.  Additionally they do humanitarian work in the combat zones in cooperation with Army and Air Force medical personnel.  Some of these Sailors have lost their lives after leaving home and the supposed security of a hospital assignment.  It is sometimes frustrating to listen to those who do not work in a place like this refer to hospital duty as easy.  Our clinicians deal with life and death every day here and are called upon to deploy at a moment’s notice.   They fight for life every day and sometimes when things go badly are as traumatized by the events as people in combat.  It’s hard to watch someone die or suffer and realize that sometimes you can’t win.  There are deaths, especially of children that I cannot get out of my head and I know from my relationships with physicians and nursing staff that they also have similar experiences.   Programs are being developed to help people before they become victims of operational stress, but these are just getting off the ground.  Please keep these heroes in your prayers.

I think today I was also a victim of my logical and reasonable brain.  I am now a declared enemy of at least one person in the anti-abortion movement.  I invested myself heavily the past three days in discussing the events of this weekend in Kansas.  I will not regurgitate this here, read those posts.  However there is something interesting.  I basically had someone comment that “they knew whose side I was on” and pretty much labeled me as someone who is not pro-life.  If they knew me they would know otherwise, but some people cannot take even constructive criticism of tactics and strategy.  Sorry but the confrontational strategy has not worked over a 30 year period and the escalation of rhetoric and violence will get the whole pro-life movement labeled as a domestic terrorist organization. Hell, even David Kupelian of the ultra conservative news site World Net Daily and I agree on this.

The guy who posted to my blog even used a line that was eerily reminiscent of Colonel Jessup in A Few Good Men.  “What happened to the “doctor” was wrong, it probably saved hundreds of lives.”  (Comment on yesterday’s post) The person who wrote this has adopted an end’s versus means situational ethic to make the leap that the murder while wrong is okay because it stopped one person from doing abortions.  Unfortunately that strategy will not stop others from doing abortions and may very well in fact lead to the dismemberment of the legislative gains of the mainstream pro-life movement which guess what will happen?  It will lead to more abortions.  If you make your living by fighting abortion like Randall Terry does this is a good thing.  You won’t lack for work or money unless however you are doing time in a Federal penitentiary as a domestic terrorist.   That aside it means as long as abortion is legal you can keep drawing a paycheck to fight it.  That is the kind of thing that makes me suspicious of Mr. Terry’s motives.  You use the same tactics for 30 years without any real change to the situation and then say we have to keep doing this.  I have to wonder when I see this. Is Mr. Terry truly committed to life or is this a means to stay in the spotlight?  I’m not accusing, just wondering.  I have met Randall on a number of occasions, never by the way at any rally or event, and he can be charming.  Personally he seems like a good guy to go out and get a beer with and maybe even engage in spirited discussions. However, his actions have planted a seed of doubt in my mind about his motives.   If he is really committed to the pro-life cause of saving babies why does he stick with tactics that only drive potential supporters away from him?  He seems to me  like Generals in wars who decide to take some enemy strongpoint.  They make an attack and it fails and they continue to do so until they bleed themselves dry and eventually lose the battle.  The real progress in the right to life movement has not been through protest. Instead it has been through prayer, practical help to women in need and legislative efforts of pro-life men and women committed to working through legal means.  These people do not vilify thier opposite numbers but seek engagement and redemption and reconcilliation.    I made sure that I allowed the comment so others can see just how this mindset plays out when guys like this judge people on the pro-life who advocate less incendiary tactics.

Well I chased that rabbit for what it was worth.  Anyway, things with my family in California still are difficult. My dad continues to worsen, the insurance company has been a pain in the ass causing my mom and brother much grief.   I covet your prayers for them.  The hospital is very busy and I have a number of very sick patients that I am caring for their families, both adults and children.  Likewise, I will be trying to make sure that I care for my ICU staff and help them get through this period of shock, grief and loss.  There may be a possibility of activating our SPRINT team to assist sailors in the medical center or on the Comfort and this could make things even more interesting.

In the midst of this I still deal with my own stuff.  In times like this I get the “electrical current” sensation running through my body.  I become more edgy, hyper vigilant and at times anxious.  Sleep is still difficult.  However, this too I will get through.  I have completed day three in a 12 day “home-stand” at the hospital.  I’ll have duty this weekend.  At least the Tides are in town. I’m taking Judy to the game against Buffalo tonight.  While there I will be keeping an eye on the scoreboard to see if Randy Johnson will get his 300th career win pitching for the Giants aganst the Nationals.  Only 24 major league pitchers have reached this mark and only one is active, that being Tom Glavine.  I’ll post a game synopsis later.

Pray for me a sinner.

Peace, Steve+

Post Script: In spite of the threat of thunderstorm we got through the game with barely a sprinkle. The Tides beat the Bisons 5-3. Kam Mickolio got the win in relief and Jim Miler got his 13th Save.  Bobby Livingston pitched 7 shutout innings but went away with a no-decision.  Jolbert Cabrerra of the Tides hit a 2 run double in the bottom of the 8th to give the Tides the win.  The Tides improve to 35 and 17 and lead the Durham Bulls by a game and a half in the International League South,  Despite the loss of several pitchers as well as Outfielder Nolan Reimold and Catcher Matt Wieters to the Orioles the Tides with a bunch of AA promotions from the Bowie Baysox continue to win.  It is fun to see a team that plays in an organization that has a solid farm system.

Speaking of teams that don’t the Bison’s are now the AAA affiliate for the NY Mets.  They have the worst record in the International League. The Mets as they did in Norfolk have no hot prospects and many of their players are former major leaguers  The sad thing is that Buffalo under the Indians had a consistently good team. The city is not happy with the Mets.  Join the club Bison fans. It sucks to be the Mets AAA affiliate.

Second Post Script: The “Big Unit” Randy Johnson and the Giants had their game with the Nationals postponed by rain.  The game will be made up Thursday as a part of a double-header.  Johnson will get his chance for 300 tomorrow. Meanwhile the Braves released Tom Glavine. This could be the end of the line for the future Hall of Fame Pitcher.

Third Post Script:  The rain which held off throughout the game decided to hit after we got home. This happend to coincide with our little dog Molly’s trip to hunt for squirrels and do her evening business. She hates rain and started barking to be let back in.  The wet little dog got the payment of her cookie, gave us a good laugh and started playing with aplush toy fox that looks somewhat like her.  She is funny.


Filed under alzheimer's disease, Baseball, ER's and Trauma, healthcare, iraq,afghanistan, Military, philosophy, Political Commentary, pro-life anti-abortion, PTSD, Religion

The Dining Out

Tonight was a lot of fun.  I went to our 2009 Naval Medical Center Intern Class Dining Out. Now for those that do not know what a dining out is I must take some time to in the words of Ricky Riccardo, to “‘splain it to you.”

Dining outs, and their counter part the Dining in go back to the times of the Roman Legions, when the officers of the Legion would get together to honor to honor individuals or units.  In these events they would recall campaigns and battles, shared hardships and parade the booty from their campaigns.   Transplanted to Northern Europe the Viking and later the people of Britain. The Viking War Lords gave a new shape to these feasts.  Of course the Vikings, like the Klingons were quite the people for a hearty celebration of victory.  They ensured that the feast was something special. “These celebrations saw all clan members present with the exception of the lookout, or watch. Feats of strength and skill were performed to entertain the members and guests. The leader took his place at the head of the board, with all others to his right and left in descending order of rank.”  Transplanted to England the tradition further developed with the various councils of knights such as the Knights of the Round Table and the lesser known Knights of the somewhat Oblong Table with One Short Leg.

For those who are clergy and somewhat put off by such displays, we too have a hand in this.  The monastics of Europe had these types of events.  The clergy of course, being the learned educators of the day spread the custom to universities.  Professional British officers who graduated from these universities carried the tradition to their units where they became more developed.   Thus to all the officers who find these functions a waste of time or money, you can blame your chaplain.  He or she may not have any idea about this, but hey, you can call them out.

The tradition grew in Royal Navy and Royal Marines and was transplanted to the American Colonists.  These traditions continued to grow and prosper until Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels, a strict prohibitionist who definitely could not spell or even comprehend the concept of martial camaraderie and fun banned alcohol from US Navy ships in 1914.  The following World War, Great Depression and the Second World War contributed to its dormancy in the Navy.  The Marines kept the tradition of the Mess Night alive and by the 1950’s the tradition also began to return to the Navy.  The Air Force adopted the Tradition from the Royal Air Force while the Army had such events from the beginnings of their Service in the Continental Army.

The Dining In is something shared among the members of the Mess themselves.  The Dining Out can include spouses or other civilian and military guests from outside the Mess.  The two are very similar in most regards including an opening invocation by the unit chaplain, in our case tonight yours truly.  It is followed by other events such as the National Anthem, the parading of the beef, the testing of the beef by “Mr Vice,” the formal dinner, toasts and remarks of the guest speaker.  During the event there are certain infractions that can cause a member of the Mess to be fined or to have to partake of “the Grog.”  The Grog, depending on where you have a Mess Night can be quite an experience.  The Grog has its roots in the mixture of watered down rum and added citrus (to fight scurvy) aboard ships of the Royal Navy.  The daily ration of rum, or Grog was perhaps one of the few pleasurable moments for sailors and Marines on warships of the 18th and 19th centuries.   When I came in the Army in the early 1980s the grog was quite the witches brew, usually a nearly undrinkable concoction of whatever alcoholic beverages Mr Vice might decide to mix together.  I do think the grog has become a bit tamer over the years, but it still can have a good effect on the violator of one of the rules of the Mess.

Tonight’s event was as I said the Dining Out for our Intern Class.  They will be graduating in about two months, some will remain with us for residencies or go elsewhere in the Navy for their residency, or go for three years to be a Flight Surgeon, Diving Medical Officer, or General Medical Officer in the Fleet or with the Marines.  I have gotten to know a lot of these young men and women through my contact with them on the ICU or Pediatric ICU during good times and bad times.  I love being around them. They work hard.  Interns at our medical center spend about 79.5 hours a week in house, I’m sure some do more because they need to do research and study all the time they are there.  Some will end up in Iraq or Afghanistan in the next few months, they all are to be commended on their work in this year.

Tonight was a really good night.  I even missed a home game at Harbor Park to be at this event, but it was worth it. Unfortunately the Tides dropped their first game at home this year after 9 consecutive wins, losing 4-1 to Durham. Norfolk left 7 runners in scoring position.

Now my day in trying to get ready for the Dining Out got sporty as far as my uniform went.  In fact things reached Ludicrous Speed this afternoon as I tried to get ready for the event.  As a Lieutenant Commander I have to wear the Mess Dress Uniform.  A formal, black tie uniform complete with cummerbund, miniature medals, bow tie and jacket. It is a very sharp looking uniform, but it has a lot of moving parts.  I had to re-do my medals as I have picked up a few since the last time I wore the uniform before I went to Iraq.  I now do this myself and discovered during the process that I was missing a medal and a couple of devices to affix to a medal as well as some hardware to put things together.  After two trips to the uniform shop at Naval Amphibious Base Little Creek I thought I was ready.  I was wrong.  I mounted my medals and got them on my uniform.  So far so good.  Then I discovered with under two hours until showtime that I was missing the gold, studs to my formal white shirt.  They were in my office sitting on my desk.  I had a choice to make.  Do I go to my office at the medical center and take my chances with the traffic and the bridge tunnel, which oh by the way is closed east bound for re-paving, or do I make a third trip to Little Creek?  I opted for the latter figuring that I could get dressed in the dressing room of the uniform shop after I got the studs.  The ladies at the store, who now had become used to me showing up every other hour were gracious.  I bought the studs and started to get dressed.  Then I discovered that I did not have shirt stays to keep my shirt from riding up. Putting on my cargo shorts and Birkenstocks which did not go well with the black socks which I had just put on, I wore my formal pleated shirt with the aforementioned items and bought the shirt stays.  I was now absolutely sure that this would be it.  I got my uniform on and put on my jacket.  To my astonishment and disbelief I noticed that my button and chain set which are used to fasten the jacket were missing.  Yet another trip to into the store and to the cash register before I could safely pack my stuff and race across the town to get to the Spirit of Norfolk on which the Dining Out was to be held. I felt like an idiot, something that I am not in the habit of feeling as I made each trip to the cash register at the Uniform Shop, I’m sure that the ladies got a kick out of my antics.  I could almost see such a thing happening to George Costanza on Seinfeld.  Serenity Now!

Peace, Steve+


Filed under History, Military