In the year since the U.S. invasion of Iraq, 553 American servicemen and women have been killed. More than 3,000 have been wounded.
As Dan Rather, reports many of them are alive because of the heroic efforts of the crew of "Medicine Man 71."
On assignment in Iraq, Rather took a helicopter ride with Army medics, across a country splattered with the blood of Americans and Iraqis.
"This is a good route," says one pilot. "I see a little less chance of getting fired at."
As Rather reports, it's fertile ground for the crew of "Medicine Man 71," a Blackhawk medical chopper that is part of the largest ongoing Medevac operation since the Vietnam War.
In an ER room the size of an SUV cabin, Medical Specialist Nathan Snell, from Denmark, Wis., has the life of Sgt. Kenneth Grady, from Lebanon, Mo., in his hands.
"He had shrapnel wounds ... on his head on his hands ... and) his entire upper chest area," says Snell. "He had breathing difficulty because he had a collapsed lung."
Snell had no idea what had caused Grady's injuries.
Specialist Snell and the crew of "Medicine Man 71" delivered Grady still alive, but only just, to Baghdad's main military hospital.
Medevac choppers fly with no attack escorts and no onboard weapons - part of the Geneva Convention. Their only defense is their Red Cross logo.
"For our mission, hopefully, they will see the Red Cross and they know that we are not there to shoot people, we are just there to help people," says pilot John Marshall.
But, while some people might respect the Red Cross logo painted on his chopper, Marshall says others might use the symbol for a target.
"Some people might even use it for a target,'' says Marshall of the Red Cross logo on the side of his chopper.
In January, nine U.S. soldiers were killed when their Blackhawk, marked with Red Cross logo, was hit by a shoulder-launched rocket near Fallujah.
Sgt. Grady is one of the lucky ones. The crew of "Medicine Man 71" did save his life.
"You're doing fine," Grady is told by a surgeon by his bedside. "We got you on the bird and got you here real quick. You had three surgeries."
According to the U.S. military, Grady is now at a U.S. hospital in Germany. It's hoped that he will make a full recovery. We wish him well.
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