We Will Serve the Lord

My favorite Bible verse is Joshua 24:15; “And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”  The reason this is my favorite verse is because it is my prayer for my children, their children, their children, their children and all who follow after them, that they will serve the Lord.

Desmond Doss received the Medal of Honor in WWII, serving as a medic with the 77th Infantry Division in the Pacific.  Desmond is a dedicated man of faith. As a non-combatant, he never carried or even touched a weapon,  yet he saved the lives of many soldiers.  He is credited with saving seventy-five men on the Maeda escarpment on Okinawa .  On the back of his Medal of Honor card, you will find the Scripture, Proverbs 3:5-6; “Trust in the Lord with all thy heart; and lean not unto thy own understanding.  In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he will direct thy paths.”

Rudy Hernandez received the Medal of Honor serving as an infantryman with the 187th Regimental Combat Team in Korea . Rudy was severely wounded protecting the lives of fellow soldiers. On the back of his Medal of Honor card, you will find the Scripture, Romans 1:16 ; “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

These men offered their “advice for life” in the Eagle series books, VALOR and A Gathering of Eagles.  I was so impressed with the courage, faith, and humility of these men that I decided to place Scriptures on the back of my business card. The first Scripture, my favorite; is Joshua 24:15.

Recently a medical student who is also a commissioned officer and West Point graduate, visited me, seeking advice about a career path in medicine, the military, and faith. One of his questions was: “How do you share your faith with others in your medical practice and in the military?”  I pulled a business card from my pocket handed it to him, asking him to look at the back of the card and said, “Let me tell you a story…”

A number of years ago I wrote several articles for the Journal of Military Medicine about combat trauma. Most of the articles were case reports. In 1990,  I evaluated a number of x-ray examinations of a veteran who had one of his legs amputated twenty years after he was wounded in Vietnam .  The amputation was due to complications of  osteomyelitis, a chronic bone infection, complicated by cancer.

The case was unusual so I decided to contact the patient to see if he would be willing to let me use his exams in one of the articles. Over time I misplaced his contact information.  About fifteen months after I first saw the patient’s x-rays, the contact information surfaced on my desk from below piles of “need-to-do” notes. Remembering the case, I decided to call him.

I called his home and his wife answered. I explained who I was and why I was calling, and asked to speak to her husband. Her response was, “He is in the hospital right now…If you go to his room, I’m sure he will talk with you.”  I thought, “Wow, what a coincidence!”

I headed to his room thinking about the coincidence that he should be a patient in the hospital on the very day that I called to see if he would let me write his story.  When I got to his room I introduced myself, explained why I was there, and asked him if he would be willing to let me write a case report about his injuries for the combat trauma series. He listened to my request and after a few moments, responded. “Yes, you can write about my case, but there is one thing I want you to do for me. I have one favor to ask before I will allow you to write the story.”  When I heard the statement, I wondered if he wanted to be paid for being included in the series.

With some trepidation I responded, “I will try.  What is the favor?” “I want you to find the doctor that took care of me in Vietnam ” he said, “the physician that saved me from having my legs amputated.  I was never able to thank him for saving my legs and I want to do so.”

I thought about the impossibility of his request.  How do you find a physician  twenty years after he took care of a patient  in Vietnam ?  I asked, “Do you know his name and where he is from?”  He responded, “I don’t know his first name, and I’m not sure how to spell his last name; but he was an Army Captain and he had a southern accent. “I wrote down the last name, thinking to myself, “There is no way I will ever find this guy.”

I headed to my office, wondering how many physicians had been in Vietnam and how many thousands of injured patients were treated. I concluded that this could be a very interesting article but it would never get written, let alone be published.

As I thought about how I could locate the physician, I decided to call the American College of Surgeons (ACS) and ask if they might be able to locate an orthopedic surgeon with possibly an incorrectly spelled last name. I called information and found the ACS telephone number.  I then called the office, explained my dilemma, and requested their help. The secretary pulled up the computerized registry and responded, “There is no orthopedic surgeon with a name similar to the name you have.” I thanked her for her effort and hung up the phone.

I wondered if the spelling of the name was correct, or if the physician had stopped practicing medicine.  Was he even a member of the ACS or was he still living?  After a period of time, I decided to call the office again and ask if they had any surgeon in any specialty with a name similar to the name I was given. When I reached the office, I apologized to the secretary, asking her to do one more search before I gave up. She opened the alphabetical membership list. After a few minutes she responded, “There is one physician with a name similar to the name you are looking for. The name is spelled differently and I doubt that it is him because he is a neurosurgeon. He does, however, live in the south.” She gave me the office number; I wrote it down and immediately called the doctor’s office.

The receptionist answered the phone and I explained why I was calling.  She told me that the doctor was out of the office but maybe I could reach him at home. When I called the home, the doctor’s wife answered, and once again, I explained why I was calling. She told me that her husband had served in Vietnam , but she did not know where or with what unit.  She asked for my phone number and said that she would give the message to her husband when he got home.

It was the end of the workday so I headed for home. Later that evening I received a call from the physician. I explained why I had called and asked if he was ever involved in the care of a soldier in Vietnam who had sustained severe bilateral lower extremity injuries…and was he the physician that made the decision not to amputate the legs of the young soldier.  He hesitated for a moment, and then responded, “Yes, I’m the guy.”

I related the story and the reason for the call. I told him the veteran had always wanted to thank him for saving his legs and asked if he would be willing to talk with the veteran…I waited, hearing no response but the sound of muffled crying. He finally responded, “Yes, please call me tomorrow at the office.” Excited, I hung the phone up in disbelief. I could not believe the good luck!  In one day I had found the doctor and he was willing to speak with the veteran. It was obvious that more than good luck was involved.

The next morning I visited the patient and told him that I had found the doctor, and that he would be able to talk to him later that morning. The patient came to my office in a wheelchair, I placed the call, the physician answered, and I handed the phone to the veteran. As he said hello, I left the office to give him some privacy, but I could hear both men crying, trying to talk over sobs and tears.

Two weeks after this episode, a man stopped me in the hall of the hospital as I was getting on an elevator. He said, “You do not know me, but I want to thank you.” I asked, “Have we met?” He told me he had been the roommate of the patient who I interviewed about doing the article. He further explained that he wanted to thank me because he was able to share his faith with the patient.  Apparently, the evening of the day that I first visited the patient, he noticed the Scriptures on the back of my business card. The patient then showed the card to his roommate, asking, “Will you help me find these verses in the Bible?” The man then told me, “Because of the Scriptures on your card, I was able to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with someone…I just wanted to tell you the rest of the story and to thank you.” God sometimes works in mysterious ways… “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”