“Rangers Lead the Way,” we won that motto on bloody Omaha Beach and it has applied to us ever since. I’d been with the Rakkasans prior to Ranger School. But, when I got out I was offered a post with the 75th Ranger Regiment, which putatively traces its lineage back to Rogers’ Rangers, of French and Indian fame. THEN, I spent an intense period of “quality” time in Paktia Province; working with the locals on both sides of the Afghan border. Pashtuns are a tough and merciless lot, which might explain why Afghanistan has been a speed-bump for every Western nation from the Macedonians, to the British, to the Russians, to us.
Most guys stay for the full twenty, when they get their Ranger flash. But my mind was changed by one incident. It was a moonless night and we were manning a checkpoint on the Kabul-Gardez road. They don’t use Ranger units for mundane things like that. But G2 had gotten the word that there was going to be a suicide bombing at the University in Gardez, and our squad was the only force available.
The darkness is absolute in the valleys of the Hindu Kush and you can get the impression that you’re the last people on earth; sitting on a desolate stretch of road in that ancient and unforgiving land. Around midnight, we heard the grinding of something big approaching our position. So we turned on our tac-lights; just to warn whoever it was to stop. What we illuminated was a big cement truck and It was headed for us at a high rate of speed.
We flashed our tac-lights, nothing happened. We flashed them again, still no slowing down. At that point the vehicle was not more than 100 yards away. Everybody was aware that the mixer could be full of enough Semtex, or C-4, to blow us ALL to kingdom-come; and it wasn’t stopping. So the Top told us to light it up. I emptied the 30-round box magazine of my SAW and I think I was the squad member who showed the MOST restraint. The juggernaut careening toward us was THAT scary.
The truck eventually drifted to a halt. The first brave soul to inspect it found no explosives, just cement. The problem was that there was one older guy and two kids. The 13-year-old was the one who had been driving. The older guy looked like he was sleeping in the back seat. We had no way of asking the 13-year-old why he didn’t stop. That was because he, his dad, and his brother were ALL emphatically dead. We didn’t suffer any consequences. We had done everything by the book. But I still couldn’t lose the image of those two little boys and that bloody cab. So, I opted out at the end of my hitch. I had had enough of killing. Now I wanted to help people.
I decided that the best way to achieve that goal was via some kind of medical field. I knew that, at age 31 I was too old to go the traditional medical school route. Moreover, I didn’t have the academic background. But the Physician’s Assistant program looked like something I could handle. I was nervous when I went down to interview. I had a leg up on admission because of my veteran status. But I had gotten one of those on-line bachelor’s degrees. It was in biology, not nursing, or anything medical. Nonetheless, six years as a combat medic made me spectacularly well-qualified in their eyes.
Once you are in a Ranger unit, you are a grunt; until somebody tells you otherwise. So I never fell under the Article 25 definition. But, I had done the 18-week medical training course at Fort Sam Houston and that MOS was what I did for our Unit. So, that autumn found me attending classes at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health, right between the two lakes off Delaplaine Court. That was my first exposure to the medical establishment.
Medicine has its fiery hoops, just like the military, and I quickly learned my place in the great scheme of things. The members of the medical faculty were at the top of the food chain. They would normally walk to work right across the water of Lake Mendota. Then there were the medical students. Oddly enough their shit didn’t stink. The hospital administration and public health people thought all of the docs were incompetent, especially when it came to the essence of delivering quality medical care; paper work. Then there were the nurses and the PA students. We were too numerous and unimportant to be noticed by the great and good.
The student body itself was a revelation, especially to a guy with my background. I had enlisted at 18 and almost half my life was spent in the rigid discipline of the military. So my peers were hard to relate to. That was mainly because they were younger than I was and had never had to face the things that I had to face. You grow up fast in the Army. They push personal responsibility from the first day of Boot Camp and there is nothing like daily foot patrols through places like Kandahar, or Gardez to teach you about your own mortality. My fellow students never had that experience. So they all seemed juvenile, especially with the constant pussy-hunts and partying.
Physician’s assistants do primary care; diagnosis and treatment, in out of the way places. Of course it is under the godlike eye of a REAL doctor, as many of the docs liked to point out. So, I was serving a post-grad family-medicine preceptorship, in a little clinic southeast of Eau-Clair. The place was not exactly Chicago, or for that matter, even Eau Claire. It was a small town of 1,500 souls, near the Wisconsin Dells. It was wonderful, in a place-that-time-forgot kind of way; gentle and peaceful and it was beginning to make the nightmares go away. I had seen far too much death in my previous life and I was beginning to understand where I belonged.
Small Wisconsin towns are in the middle of nowhere. So, from a family medicine standpoint I was the only game in town. I was already licensed. I had passed the PANCE when I graduated, and I could write prescriptions. But I still had to be “under orders” of a licensed physician. My supervising doc was the local family practitioner. Doctor Morton more-or-less left the patient care up to me. He would just appear once in a while to show the flag. He had lived in the village his entire life, with the exception of his time at UW Medical school, and he looked and acted like a refugee from a 1930s dustbowl movie.
He was a nice old guy who had faithfully served his community for over fifty years. I think he saw me as a son, since he was always kind to me and helpful. The office itself was in a building on the main drag. It was small, basically a receptionist, me and a nurse. The nurses would rotate up from Madison for clinical assignments. They were mainly 22-23-year-old BSNs, either fresh out, or finishing up. The town was not the kind of place anybody would go to for fun. So my BSNs tended to gravitate toward Eau Claire for evenings out. The fact that the girls were going to Eau Claire for the nightlife ought to give you some idea how exciting and vibrant our little town was.
I was nearly 34 at that point and my only aim was to settle down. The problem was that I really didn’t have anyone to settle down WITH, not that the locals didn’t try. I was their version of the town doctor and there were plenty of unattached women who had made their interest clear. Even so, I had been with every type of female in my Army career; from the cotillions at Fort Bragg to the whore houses of Kabul. So, the women in that place didn’t have what it took to interest a guy as jaded as me.
That changed one spring morning. Wisconsin is the pits in the winter. The snow is knee deep, the colors are black and white and the air is so cold that it freezes your nose-hairs. Then the weather breaks, the sun comes out, it gets warm, green leaves appear and it is May. I had been informed that UW Family Medicine was sending up a new Nurse Practitioner, who had actually REQUESTED the placement. That was astounding in-and-of itself, since most of the nurses they sent thought that they were being punished. I called the Doc and he and I were waiting behind the counter to interview the new girl.
As we waited, the door opened and a woman walked in. She was absolutely breathtaking. She was a Swedish blond, long, extra-thick almost white-blond hair framing a perfect oval face. She looked like she had just stepped off the cover of one of those sporting magazines; about five-six, slim and obviously fit, with long beautiful well-muscled legs in a modest business length skirt. She was perhaps 29 years old.
I should have been delighted by her unexpected arrival. However, in point of fact, I was a little irritated. This was a woman who any man would want to get to know better. But instead, I had to interview a painfully sincere nursing student. That illustrated the kind of timing I had been experiencing lately. When I saw a woman who struck my fancy I was either doing something else, or she was in the process of doing something discouraging, like walking down the street with her husband and kids.
I said curtly, “Please sit down Miss. We’ll get to you as soon as we can.” She said, “Dr. Morton.” The Doc said, “Yes.” She looked a little puzzled and said to me, “Who are you?” I snapped perhaps a little too abruptly, “I’m his PA! How can we help you?” She said just as snappishly, “My name is Eve Pederson and I was supposed to interview with Dr. Morton for his Clinical Nurse Practitioner opening.”
Holy crap!!! THIS stunning woman was the person we were waiting for!!! Needless to say I started backpedaling. I said, trying to keep the flustered out of my voice, “I’m sorry Ms. Pederson, we were expecting somebody much younger.” OH MY GOD!!! I am such a tool!!!??? She smiled at my embarrassment. She knew the effect that she had on men.
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