Saturday was Afghan Election Day. You might not have noticed it on the news but the elections definitely made their mark here.
It had been weirdly quiet for the preceeding week. We have been told repeatedly to be ready for more business but after the Labor Day chaos it had really not materialized. I would call the casualty rate a slow dribble until the elections.
The pages went out at breakfast. "3 casualties. ETA unknown." 3 turned into 8 ANA regulars all from one IED blast. Several were taken to surgery for stabilization. This lasted until early afternoon. Remarkably most of the patients had already flown out and clean up was underway. The flight system for MEDEVACs is always in motion and we often only treat patients for a few hours.
Then came the call that Americans were inbound. This round included an American sergeant with a missing foot and badly injured leg that could not be salvaged. Another limb claimed by IEDs and another amputee with a long rehabilitation ahead but fortunately still alive.
In the late afternoon came the day's final call. This was an Army soldier who committed suicide with a gunshot to the head. It was a tough gut check after so much expended effort to save other lives. It was also the team's first experience of the "ramp" ceremony. The body is bagged and draped in the American flag. The body is then borne by a guard on a litter, feet first, to a waiting ambulance. Its path is marked by parallel lines of service members facing inward and standing at attention. The body passes the ranks and a final salute is rendered before the door to the ambulance (or helo) is closed. It is the first step in the final journey home of the deceased soldier and a grave end to a difficult day.