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Book Review: Saber's Edge – a combat medic in Ramadi Iraq

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Saber’s Edge: A Combat Medic in Ramadi, Iraq is Tom Middleton’s chronicle of his experiences as a Firefighter/Paramedic/Nurse National Guardsman from Vermont taking the fight to the enemy in the chaotic and violent city of Ramadi Iraq in 2005. Tom gives a detailed account of day-to-day activities as well as the pivotal battles and encounters with the enemy where he was forced to reconcile his role as a combat medic with an infantry platoon.

I had the good fortune to meet Tom a few months ago at the 2009 EMS Expo in Atlanta. Tom is about a regular guy as you will ever meet. In person, listening to a few of his stories, I had a hard time reconciling what I was seeing – “a guy 50 pounds heavier and 20 years older” (his words) – with the soldiers he served with. Reading the book with the descriptive accounts of missions along with the ongoing search for meaning helped me better connect the Tom I met in Atlanta and the stories he told me there.

As a paramedic I appreciated Tom’s detailed accounts of how he applied his lifesaving skills to friends and foes. Tom saw more penetrating trauma patients in a single patient than I have seen in my career. By “riding along” with Tom I was reminded of the importance of rapid trauma injury identification, that sometime “C” will come before “A”, and that not all patients will make despite the total commitment and heroic efforts of those caring from them.

I also appreciated his sharing the turmoil he faced healing those that had just been attempting to harm him and his companions, but the importance to the greater mission to show compassion. Next time I am called away from a station of woken from sleep to care for a patient that likely just needs a ride to the hospital for a non-emergency I will remember that Tom while at considerable risk to his own life cared for combatants on the battlefield. All things are relative with the right perspective.

Tom also explores how his spirituality and catholic religious beliefs were strengthened as he prayed and discussed the justness of war, killing combatants, death and injury to non-combatants, and the importance of staying true to a strong set of moral principles to avoid the urges of vengeance and evil.

Finally, Taking the fight to the enemy was a frequently used phrase used throughout the book to both express the frustration of the mission as well as the reward of getting out of the forward operating base and seeking out the enemy before more harm was caused.

Listen to an interview with Tom Middleton about Saber’s Edge on the Medical Author Chat podcast.

By Greg Friese

Greg Friese, Stevens Point, Wisconsin, is an author, educator, paramedic, and marathon runner.

Greg was the co-host of the award winning EMSEduCast podcast, the only podcast by and for EMS educators. Greg has written for,, Wilderness Medical Associates, JEMS Magazine, and EMS World Magazine, and the NAEMSE Educator Newsletter.