If you could throw G.I. Joe and Dr. House in a blender together, the military medic is the delicious human smoothie you'd get as a result. While most of us require headphones to block out the slightest distractions during work, combat medics heal fellow humans while bullets and bombs try to kill them. So at the very baseline of the profession, we're talking about men and women with proverbial balls so big that their fatigues are shaped like Hammer pants.
And when we look at the ones who go above and beyond, well, we get crazy stories like ...
#5. The Medic Who Delivered Plasma (While Delivering Bullets)
Scott Olson/Getty Images News/Getty Images
You might be picturing these combat medics pulling off the very basics while on the battlefield -- applying bandages, giving CPR, the stuff you've seen in movies. But way back in 1945, 18-year-old medic Robert Bush wasn't just giving basic care at the Battle of Okinawa, he was doing the tough stuff -- like administering blood transfusions on the battlefield. If you have a hard time imagining what a blood transfusion looks like outside a sterile hospital setting, start with this picture of another World War II medic delivering plasma to a wounded private:
National Archives via Wikipedia
Civilian entertainment was notoriously difficult to come by during World War II.
But instead of barefoot Sicilian peasants, imagine the medic is surrounded by screaming Marines fighting off Japanese combatants. And picture a gaping chest and shoulder wound in the victim, one that required an immediate plasma delivery to aid in blood coagulation. Go ahead and just picture the fiery pits of the deepest hell while you're at it, because that's the scene we're trying to paint Bush in here.
Now, if you were a Japanese soldier fighting for the empire, maybe you'd give pause when coming upon a guy so almost-dead that he's getting a blood transfusion. Maybe you'd step over him and move on to the next American. If so, good for you, but that's not how things worked at Okinawa. Hospital Apprentice First Class Bush held his blood bag with one hand, drew his pistol with the other, and, after presumably snapping off some cool one-liner like, "The doctor will see you NOW, BITCHES!" began mowing down the charging Japanese.
U.S. Navy via Wikipedia
Rarely do things ever work out for soldiers who fight for any "empire."
Bush maintained his position, emptying his pistol into the horde before scooping up the wounded officer's rifle to continue fighting against the onslaught. He continued protecting his "patient" even after a grenade blew up near him, destroying his right eye with shrapnel.
In his own words:
"They got me. The first grenade took my eye out, and I put my arm up to hold it off, and got some fragments in the other eye. Got a lot in my eye and shoulders. They hit me with three hand grenades in a matter of seconds. I was firing on them with [the lieutenant's] carbine. Every time I saw a Japanese head pop up, I could see the star on their helmets, I'd fire one round a foot below where I saw that head come up, because I knew I couldn't miss, I'd get 'em on the way down."
Zoonar RF/Zoonar/Getty Images
When in doubt, aim for the dick.
In the most badass display of bedside manner ever, Bush stayed right at the wounded man's side until the man was finally evacuated. Then he calmly made his way back to the battle aid station, where he promptly passed out.
#4. The Medic Who Hulked Out on the Enemy
JOHN GOMEZ/iStock/Getty Images
For 6-foot-5-inch, 250-pound Idaho farm boy David Bleak, the U.S. intervention in the Korean War wasn't just a chance to get off the potato farm and see the world, it was an opportunity to demonstrate the fact that he was secretly goddamned Captain America (or Sergeant America, whatever).
In 1952, Bleak volunteered to be a part of a 20-member reconnaissance team with the mission of capturing a Chinese prisoner of war for interrogation. Little did anyone in the group know that they were walking into Ambush Mountain, which would have been really helpful information in retrospect. After the patrol's first ambush, Bleak did his job as a medic -- tending wounds, tying tourniquets, casting healing spells, all that. His team pressed on, only to find a second ambush waiting in the trenches. And it was during that second ambush when something snapped. It was almost like he said, "Ambush us once, I'll tend wounds and do my job. Ambush us twice, I'll FUCKING RIP YOUR THROATS OUT THROUGH YOUR EAR HOLES."
Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
That's the sort of realistic nuance you just don't get from reruns of M*A*S*H.
Bleak went full berserker mode. The enemy troops watched the American medic jump into the trench and go on a rampage with his bare hands, breaking the neck of one guy and crushing the windpipe of another. Then he fully secured his place in the nightmares of any enemy onlookers by plunging his one weapon, a trench knife, in the chest of a third. And he wasn't done.
After sending three enemies to that great trench in the sky, Bleak's Spidey senses told him a grenade was on its way. Did he run? No. Did he attempt to meet it in the air so he could throw it into outer space? Probably. But when that didn't work, he simply used his own hulking monster truck of a body to shield his closest comrade.
James M. Macon
Bleak, seen here taking a break from deflecting grenades by flexing his abs.
Still alive, somehow, his blood-rage temporarily satisfied, Bleak transformed back into a medic and continued patching up the wounded, even ignoring his own bullet wound while taking care of buddies. And for him, "caring for the wounded" meant shoulder-hauling a fellow soldier who was too injured to walk. Remember, this was an Idaho boy who was not only high on adrenaline but probably excited about carrying something that felt a little like a sack of potatoes.
It was at this point that two dumbasses attacked Bleak with fixed bayonets. Bleak grabbed them both and smacked their heads together, Three Stooges-style. Hey, we weren't there -- this is what witnesses swear happened, and we won't doubt them. Mainly because we don't want this guy's ghost to come back and beat the shit out of us.
#3. The Medic Who Didn't Let Paralysis Get Him Down
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images News/Getty Images
When Gary Beikirch joined the Green Berets in the mid-'60s, he knew exactly what he was getting into. Joining the military in 1967 was like walking into a Porta-Potty on the second day of a music festival -- you know you're going to see some shit.
Beikirch was part of a special forces team paired with indigenous Vietnamese allies called the Montagnards, and on April 1, 1970, Beikirch's camp came under a massive assault from the North Vietnamese. After first checking to make sure this wasn't a tasteless April Fool's Day prank, Beikirch got straight to work, only his work commute required crossing a live battlefield to reach fallen soldiers. Before he could even get to the first injured Green Beret, Beikirch's back was hit with a sliver of shrapnel and he was partially paralyzed.
Which finally relieved that itch in his boot.
Soooo, game over, right? If the medic needs a medic, it's time to go home. At the very least, wait out the battle and hope backup arrives before another bomb kills you altogether. But not if you're Sgt. Gary Beikirch.
He was partially paralyzed, yes, but helpless, no. Beikirch rounded up a few Montagnard assistants to carry him around on a litter so he could give medical attention to the other wounded men. And please remember they were still under fire this whole time -- he got shot in the side while giving mouth to mouth and took another bullet in the stomach later. And he kept doing his job, from a stretcher, with two bullets and a hunk of shrapnel in his body.
U.S. Army via Wikipedia
Merely a flesh wound.
For his heroism, Beikirch earned the Medal of Honor from President Nixon and the lifelong respect of anyone who's called in sick over a sniffly nose. The best news of all is that after six months of recovery in Japan, Beikirch was not only able to walk again but went on to spend 20 years on a completely different battleground -- serving as a counselor at a middle school.