Reader Brian Mattson has alerted us to an astonishing eyewitness report by Captain Dan Mattson (his brother) deriving from Secretary Rumsfeld’s in-theater visit. Today Secretary Rumsfeld visited a military hospital just two miles from the dining hall tent in Mosul where the huge explosion occurred as staff were sitting down for lunch Tuesday. Captain Mattson reports from the hospital:
It’s Christmas Eve, though it didn’t feel like it. There are some good decorations in the hospital, but we had no Christmas music in the OR today, and no snow on the ground. No nativity scenes or festive cheer in this part of the world. Then, after a routine for here but hardly routine day in the OR, my day was made. I’m referring to the interaction I witnessed and helped facilitate between a young injured soldier and a high ranking official. Here is how it happened:
I was reading foxnews.com at around noon when I told the anesthesiologist that “the Donald” was in town on a surprise visit. No, not Donald Trump, but Donald Rumsfeld. He laughed cynically and said no way would he come here. Well, at around 1600 I was in the OR and I was told that Rumsfeld was downstairs, and we could go down there if we wanted to. I was not in a position to leave, obviously.
Well, the timing worked out well, because I was taking my patient to the recovery room when we wheeled the stretcher through a mob of dignitaries, to include 3 and 4 star generals. I knew the Secretary was nearby, and it turns out he was in the ICU. The patient drew enough attention because of his bruised, banged up face that the 4 star came over to get his story from the surgeon. I was doing some charting by the bedside when Mr. Rumsfeld came over and heard the kid’s story from the 4-star. Rumsfeld looked concerned and kind of kept his distance from the gruesome site. He said something like “bless his heart”, as if talking around him.
That is when I, without any thought, piped in with “Sir, you can talk to him, he’s awake.” He told the soldier, named Rob, how proud he was of his service. The soldier was in a bit of disbelief, because he couldn’t see with one eye patched and the other swollen shut. He said he wanted to talk to Rumsfeld. That’s when I said “He’s standing right to your left, Rob, that’s his voice you hear. You can talk to him.” The kid was nervous at that point, but sputtered out how honored he was to talk to him. Mr. Rumsfeld replied, “No, it’s an honor for me to talk to you.”
Then remarkably, the young soldier, who had just lost his left hand and right eye from an explosion, came to the defense of the Secretary of Defense, stating “Mr. Rumsfeld, I want you to know, that you are doing a fantastic job. I know that you are taking a lot of heat for the problems with getting armor for vehicles. I want you to know that things are vastly improved. Our vehicles are great, and I have never searched through junk piles for scrap metal.”
At this point, Rumsfeld looked choked up, and I had a lump in my throat and and watery eyes. It was moving. What makes a man who has been so close to death, and maimed for life, come to the defense of the Army’s highest ranking official? Loyalty, I dare say. Did Rob think Mr. Rumsfeld was having a self-esteem problem? In his greatest hour of need, his thoughts went to the emotional needs of another. I found it quite amazing, and moving. The Secretary took out a coin and gave it to a bystander for him, as if he didn’t know he could touch him. Finally, the soldier said, “Man, Donald Rumsfeld, I wish I could shake his hand.”
Even at that, I felt Mr. Rumsfeld needed some prompting, so I picked up the kid’s arm and looked at the Secretary, and he reached out and took the kid’s hand. After the entourage left, I took the coin and placed it in the soldiers hand, for him to feel and hold. I said, “that’s not one you’ll get every day.” He was happy. I told the person caring for him to make certain that coin went with him to his room. I was assured that he would. I told Rob it was an honor to care for him, and then went on to do my next case. I’d like to see him tomorrow, but I heard he is flying out tonight.
Captain Mattson’s report is posted on The Banty Rooster under the heading “A must read email from an American soldier!”
UPDATE: We originally identified Captain Dan Mattson’s brother as Richard Mattson. As Brian Mattson explains in the linked post, he is Captain’s Dan Mattson’s brother and emailed us from the account of his and Captain Mattson’s father, Richard Mattson.