With 2 combat tours in Iraq under his belt, Dr. Donnely Wilkes shares his first-hand experiences with refreshing transparency. While one would think someone with that kind of experience would be tough as nails, Wilkes describes his true feelings and fears of being in a real-life battle with people wanting to kill him while serving as a medic in battlefield conditions.I never thought I would join the military, much less do two tours in Iraq.My grandfather was a P-38 pilot in WWII and was shot down over North Africa, and survived.My dad always pushed me to seek higher levels.I wasn’t the smartest kid in the class. I would just outwork.A key question for a battlefield medic: Can you operate under pressure, be sleep-deprived, and yet do procedures well?Going on simulated night raids was like being in a movie- but I didn’t know I wasn’t quite ready for this movie.As much as I trained, I thought I was prepared, but I wasn’t.When the “S” hits the fan, you have a file drawer of skills, and you have to access it.Fallujah was like the Wild West.It was unbelievable what the United States military could mobilize and put on wheels.The Marine Corps motto is to do more with less.I came to the point where I realized I just needed to finish the mission so I could go home.When mortar attacks began, that’s when I knew there was somebody out there wanting to kill me.I couldn’t accept being there and being in harm’s way. I really struggled to keep it together. When I experienced my first surgical casualty, it was a horrible moment, but after the team gathered around and prayed, it was a beautiful moment.
Wilkes is the founder, president, and medical director of Summit Health Group in Thousand Oaks, CA, and authored Code Red Fallujah, his first-hand narrative of his role in the Battle of Fallujah. He served seven years on active duty and was awarded the Navy Commendation Medal with Valor for his actions in the battle of Fallujah in April of 2004. Upon completion of his naval service, Dr. Wilkes was honorably discharged as a Lieutenant. He is a devoted husband, father, and Christian.
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