As a young Marine in the 1990s, Richard Jadick had been stuck behind a recruiting desk during Operation Desert Storm and passed over for what he thought would be his only chance to serve his county in combat.
“I thought I had missed the only war that was ever going to happen,” he said.
But Jadick got an opportunity for combat in 2003, when at 38, he volunteered for service in Iraq. And in 2004, he earned a Bronze Star for valor for selflessly operating on the front lines during the battle for Fallujah, often finding himself under fire as he saved the lives of 30 Marines who wouldn’t have survived the move back to an aid station.
Jadick would go on to write a bestselling memoir, “On Call from Hell,” and land on the cover of Newsweek, hailed as “The Doctor of Valor.” On Wednesday, he will be the main speaker at the Lexington Medical Center Foundation’s 9/11 banquet.
“Dr. Jadick’s extraordinary story of saving lives in Iraq is admirable and inspirational,” said Tim James, the foundation’s vice president and executive director. “It serves as a strong reminder of why we should recognize every first responder and military member who sacrifices on our behalf every day.”
Jadick, now a urologist in Peachtree City, Ga., grew up in Albany, N.Y., watching “M*A*S*H” on television. It instilled in him a deep desire to experience the adrenalin rush of combat while working with and helping others.
“I never lost the desire to play guns and do the military thing,” he said in a telephone interview with The State last week.
He entered his high school ROTC program and joined the Marines in 1983 as a lieutenant, but was stuck in a desk job until he was chosen to go to medical school, courtesy of the Navy.
Jadick was serving his residency at the Naval Medical School in Bethesda, Md., on Sept. 11, 2001, when terrorists flew planes into the World Trade Center towers in New York and the Pentagon in Washington.
“As a resident I wanted to do something,” he said. “I was already a Marine and I volunteered for anything that would send me (into combat), but they wouldn’t let me go.”
His chance, however, came in 2003 when he volunteered as a surgeon for a Marine Expeditionary Unit heading for Mosul, Iraq.
“We landed in Mosul first, other than the Delta Force guys,” he said. “We were supposed to take over the airport, but there wasn’t anybody there.”
The next year, however, Jadick found himself in the middle of the Marines’ surge in Fallujah, considered some of the bloodiest fighting by Marines since Vietnam.
Jadick was concerned that Marines severely wounded on the front would not survive the mile and a half transport back to an aid station. He decided to be as close to the fighting as possible to treat the wounded quickly and increase their chances for survival.
He is credited with setting up a makeshift emergency room in the middle of the battlefield by establishing an aid station in the prayer room of an old government building. Equipped with only a medical bag, he inserted chest tubes and performed amputations, tracheotomies and other medical procedures that were above the skill level of many of the medics, called “corpsmen” in the Marines, who accompanied the front line troops.
“What I had that the corpsmen didn’t was experience.”
Jadick even found himself covering a young Marine in an advanced position, armed only with a 9mm pistol.
“He said, ‘You need to cover that corner, sir.’ I said, ‘With what?’ I had forgotten that I hadn’t pulled my sidearm.”
Jadick was never wounded in the fighting, but a corpsman who accompanied him was.
“He was just hit in the leg,” Jadick said.
Overall, Jadick treated hundreds of wounded Marines and it’s estimated that he helped save 30 lives. Jadick said he wasn’t sure about the number.
“A lot of them would have bled out if we hadn’t been there,” he said. “But if you can get the bleeding stopped and get them out of shock, they’re going to go home.”
Jadick said he will talk about valor at Wednesday’s event at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center.
“Valor is not bravery or courage,” he said. “It’s the hope we have for each other and what we do for each other on the battlefield when the chips are down.”
Jadick last fall completed a tour of duty at a forward operating base in Afghanistan at the age of 47. He retired from the Navy in June.
“I would go again in a second,” he said. “It’s about being a part of something that is bigger than yourself.”
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