07/07/09 — Caregivers: Landstuhl Medical Center

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Caregivers: Landstuhl Medical Center

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on July 7, 2009 1:46 PM

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A medical staff member checks a patient at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center. Wounded from the battles in Afghanistan and Iraq end up at the center for treatment.

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The closet at Landstuhl includes contributions of special items from the states to help make patients more comfortable.

LANDSTUHL, Germany -- Walking the halls at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center is a humbling experience, as every few moments, another injured troop makes his or her way down one of the long corridors inside the state-of-the-art facility.

You can't help but think about how they got there -- how the road to that place often begins when a firefight breaks out in the desert.

And you get the sense that without the work of the men and women from Seymour Johnson Air Force Base currently deployed to two desert theaters, the fate of those recovering from gunshot wounds and Improvised Explosive Device blasts would be much different.

Were this the Vietnam War, many of them would likely die.

But now, thanks to the efforts of Goldsboro-based crews -- and those who will take their place at the end of their tours -- medical care that used to take up to 45 days to receive is now only hours away.

The road to Landstuhl begins, in many cases, with a frantic call that comes in from somewhere in Afghanistan.

Members of the 4th Fighter Wing's 336th Fighter Squadron are on the receiving end, and respond to those cries for help from the cockpits of whichever F-15E Strike Eagles happen to be closest to the fight.

The jets first eliminate the threat, and then keep watch over those on the ground below to ensure the wounded make it back to the nearest Forward Operating Base.

From there, the injured are airlifted to the hospital at Bagram Air Base, where, within 48 hours, they are stabilized and booked on a flight bound for the Free World.

The KC-135R Stratotanker's traditional role is refueling fighter jets, but during the last few weeks, one from Seymour Johnson's own 916th Air Refueling Wing has taken that flight several times over.

It resembled an Emergency Room in the sky, complete with all the equipment and personnel necessary to get the wounded out of theater and into the hands of the first-class medical staff at Landstuhl as quickly as possible.

And as soon as it hit the Ramstein Air Base, Germany, flight line, another team of medics was waiting to get Coalition troops to the care they so desperately need.

Landstuhl has all the comforts of a hospital in the United States -- and more.

The medical side of the house is impressive, but what really tugs at the heart are the conveniences you might not expect to find there.

There is a closet stocked with everything someone recovering from a serious injury might require -- fresh sets of clothing, toiletries and medication.

But there is so much more -- little things that might not seem like much to those safe in their homes in America , but mean the world to the men and women who nearly gave all to protect the freedom that is all too often taken for granted back home.

The room is full of candy, CDs, movies and books.

And handmade quilts and thank-you notes from school children lift spirits that might otherwise be down.

A few yards away, a state-of-the-art USO center offers television, telephone calls and hot meals to America's wounded warriors.

Those who run the center say it provides significant relief to those suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, loneliness and the guilt associated with leaving one's unit behind.

Touring Landstuhl allows a visitor to see the cost of the war -- and to remember the sacrifices American's service members make for their nation.

Those who serve there say their mission has great rewards and sorrows. They put a priority on taking care of those who have given their all to their country -- and making sure as many of those heroes as possible get home, if they can, to their families.