It’s like having children.

Big, savage, drunk children.

With guns.

As a medic/corpsman in a combat arms unit, your job is to do everything in your power to make sure those evil bastards can enter the fight with every ounce of strength they possess. You treat everything from broken ankles to wittle boo-boos when their pussies hurt.

You do it because you love them. There can’t be any other reason.

You have to love them. A man can graduate from the Combat Medic course, or train as a greenside corpsman, but to truly earn the title “Doc,” you have to do the unthinkable: love the unlovable.

No one else will do it. These men are, by definition, unlovable. They are hardened leather wrapped around black, shriveled little souls. Their blood is a concoction of Monster drink, testosterone, and dip spit. Their souls are made of tattoo ink and divorce papers. They joke about killing, even if it is right after they’ve killed someone. They convert oxygen into hate and require only blood to satisfy their hunger.

No one else will love them. The world shits on them, and requires their service in return. They get fucked by higher-ups who have no ability to relate to them. None of them will go anywhere near the chaplain. Their families may try to love them, but they’re often confused by their viciousness. Their civilian friends use them as trophies on a shelf so they can tell their other civilian friends about how they “have a friend in the military, and he’s fucking crazy!”

If you’re a medic, these men will try your patience. When the training day is over and they’re all relaxing around a DVD, holding pizza in carbon-stained hands, you’re just getting those last-minute requests.

“Hey, Doc, can you come check this shit out on my balls?” they say as you longingly stare at the last piece of pizza.

“Hey, Doc, what’s this fuckery on my ass?”

“Hey, Doc, you got any pain meds?”

“Hey, Doc, my kneecap is somehow in the wrong spot.”

Some of them are problem children. A new soldier may yell “MEDIC!!!” at every little muscle twinge, or every open sore. They’re still not as bad as those crusty bastards, the guys who have spent decades in special operations, the ones you know have a broken ankle but will still refuse treatment.

Yet every minute you invest in these men will pay back in dividends. If your boys know that you actually give a shit about them, those comments will eventually lead to:

“Hey, Doc, we got you a pizza,” or

“Hey, Doc, wanna fire a few rounds with us?” or

“Hey, Doc, what’s this shit on my dick?” (Sorry, that one never changes.)

Then comes that day when you walk into whatever team room/armory/formation you have, hating life and everything in it. The coffee hasn’t kicked in yet, and you’re pissed about doing 15 LODs yesterday alone. Then your guys see you and sound off with a smile and a loud “Hey Doc!” Then it all somehow becomes just a little more bearable.

They’re all yours. You’re not in their chain of command, but they belong to you. You will beat yourself up for each mistake you will inevitably make. It is also a huge responsibility to know that every misdiagnosed injury, every drop of blood, is yours. Every gut-wrenching death, no matter that you couldn’t do anything about it, is also yours, iron-stamped into your gray matter.

You can’t save them all. The things they love may kill them. They are men who leap into danger while you wade side-by-side with them into the guts and brass casings, hoping, praying that none of them will die.

You will pray, too. Whether it’s to Jesus, Allah, that tree god from Game of Thrones, or Pee Wee fucking Herman, you will pray that none of your boys bites it.

Because you love them, and no one else will.

Cokie has been in various military branches and contracting companies. He loves "Yo Momma" jokes, and is often intrigued by the complexities of the social hierarchy of Smurfs. He hates the movie Pocahontas, and with good reason. Don't get him started. He can be found in tree stands across the Midwest, wishing he was good at deer hunting. He is author of the book Where They Meet: Songs of War and Poems of Life. His work can be found at and on Instagram @cokie_actual.



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