It was early in this century. I had duty this one day at MCAGCC, 29 Palms, California. I was waiting at the Battalion Aid Station on base, next to 1st Tank Battalion HQ, until 1600 hours, to officially close the station; the rest of our staff had liberty call around 1330 hours that day. 4pm arrived.
After securing the building, I was closing the front door, and about to lock it. “DOC CLAYTON! Thank God I found you!” I heard a familiar voice behind me exclaim.
I spun around. “Sgt. Cervantes! What’s up, Teüfelhünden?”
“I’m on my way off-base right now; I’m going on Terminal Leave.” He continued without a pause. “I just had to find you, and thank you for saving my life before I left.”
OH YEA! A flash went through my brain. Last time I saw Sgt. Cervantes, myself and Gunnery Sergeant Hicks were dropping him off at the ER — back on Mainside, from a Combined Arms Exercise. My Battery CO had to have the range shut down, and suspend a Final Protective Fire exercise, a huge simulated assault representing the culmination of a 23-day stint in the field. It had been a huge call to make on the word of an E-4 Corpsman, (me) But the Major didn’t hesitate to trust my call — I thought Sgt. Cervantes might have appendicitis.
“Doc, I was in surgery 15 minutes after you dropped me off! Those three tylenols you immediately gave me, and the trip back to Mainside saved my life!”
I suddenly felt uncomfortable. “Oh, no, Sgt., the Surgeon at the ER saved your life. Err, um, I just brought you there. You should thank the Surgeon.”
“I DID, DOC! He said ‘Don’t thank me. Thank your Corpsman.’ You got TO’d over here to Tanks for Spring Break, (first tour, Iraq) and I never saw you again, until now.” He extended his right arm and said “I owe you my life, Doc.”
I shook his hand earnestly, thinking “This fucking Marine is right… Holy Shit.”