I’ve had the privilege of teaching many interns and residents over the years, and it’s always a joy to see them sally forth and take on the world. Although some have made me nervous (are you sure you’re ready for this?), others, such as Dr. Curt Gales, were obviously destined to accomplish great things.
I was Curt’s preceptor during his residency at Fox Army Hospital in 1996-97. He was, without a doubt, one of the best students I ever had. Emboldened with the kind of confidence and independent spirit that can only come from driving a combine on a Kansas wheat farm at the age of twelve, Curt never flinched at any difficult case or task that we assigned him. Instead, his response was invariably, “May I have some more, please?”
None of us who were a part of Curt’s training were surprised when he completed two difficult tours of duty in Korea and Kosovo and then seamlessly settled into a successful practice in Colorado Springs. But what came next was a surprise to us and, most of all, to Curt–a recall to active duty in Iraq.
Curt called me shortly after receiving those orders, and we talked for a good hour about things past, present and future. While he was understandably concerned about leaving his wife, young daughter and a budding private practice career, he was determined to go beyond the call of duty and make the best of a bad situation. But he didn’t know at the time just how bad a situation it would be.
You can read Curt’s story about the lessons he learned as an optometrist at Abu Ghraib here. As part of the “clean-up crew,” his assignment was not only to provide quality eyecare to anyone who needed it, but to also try to undo some of the damage wrought by those who had gone before him–no easy task.
I’ve always said that honorable people can disagree about the necessity and morality of this war (although I am often appalled at how dishonorably we treat those who disagree with us). But while most talk, some do. People like Dr. Curt Gales, who sally forth into a messy, broken world and make the best of a bad situation.
Hooah, Captain Gales. I’m proud to know you.