Saturday is Armed Forces Day, a day when the nation honors the contributions that military service members make toward ensuring its security.
One such contributor is Maj. Ed Gyukeri Jr. of Oneonta, who recently returned from a four-month tour at a forward surgical unit in Logar Province, Afghanistan, close to the Pakistani border. It was not his first deployment in the post-9/11 world.
“I was in Iraq during the surge in 2006,” the longtime reservist said this week. “That was my first deployment. The second was in 2008, but by 2008 things has calmed down a lot.”
The Afghan tour — with the 624th Forward Surgical Team, which was attached to the 173rd Airborne Brigade at Forward Operating Base Shank, north of the city of Gardez — produced some remarkable moments, he said.
“The most memorable one that’s sort of local interest is the night that we got victims from an … engineer battalion,” he said.
The 444th Battalion is a reserve unit based in Oswego, and the soldiers had struck an improvised explosive device, or IED, on a night in early November.
“We’re a reserve unit, but we were basically the medical element for an active-duty provincial reconstruction team,” he said. “Other than the medical people, I wasn’t expecting to run into any other reservists, and certainly not to be taking care of the wounded from a reserve unit.”
What made it worse, he said was “the severity of the injuries and the number of people wounded in one incident.”
“When they arrived, four out of the six were critical,” he said. “They were pretty much dead. There really was not much life left. And, of course, we did what we always do, which is perform CPR and try to save them.
“But they quickly died,” he said in a low voice after a long pause.