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"I Heard Myself Say Out Loud, 'Someone Needs To Smoke That Little Girl'"

A Marine Corps medic in Afghanistan struggles to balance Hippocrates and the demands of war. You can find the full story below. An excerpt:

One day I was back at the command outpost listening to the radio traffic: A group of well-concealed gunmen, aided by an unarmed spotter, had pinned down one of our patrols. It was not unusual to have spotters telling shooters where we were located—this spotter was odd in that she was female, and that she was approximately 6 years old. She pointed at the Marines and talked into a hand-held radio, and every time she talked, the rounds got closer.

Hearing this play out, I heard myself say out loud, "Someone needs to smoke that little girl." Then I paused, stood, and left the tent to consider the idea that I was, in that instant, advocating the killing of a child. Not some abstract child in an ethics discussion question; no, I meant that particular little girl, the one who had come menacingly alive for me over the crackling of the radio. I wanted a 5.56mm round from my friend's rifle to split her throat so that our Marines might live.

It wasn't my most Hippocratic moment. ...

For lighter fare, check out our medic's guide to jackin' it in Afghanistan.

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