Stephen R. Ellison

Dr. Stephen R. Ellison is a native of San Marcos, TX and a graduate of Jack C. Hays high school in Kyle, TX. He received his B.S. in Biology from Southwest Texas State University in San Marcos, TX in 1987 before enlisting as a Private First Class medic in the U.S. Army, serving in the 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, Hunter Army Airfield, GA. He was the Enlisted Honor Graduate of his Ranger School class and participated in the parachute assault of Torrorrijos/Tocumen Airport, Panama during Operation: Just Cause.

In 1991, then Sergeant Ellison was accepted to medical school at the University Of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio on a U.S. Army scholarship. He received his Doctor of Medicine degree and promotion to Captain in 1995. His transitional internship was performed at Brooke Army Medical Center. He then served as the initial company commander and program director for the new Joint Special Operations Medical Training Center, Ft. Bragg, NC.

In 2001 he Graduated from the joint Brooke Army Medical Center – Wilford Hall Medical Center Emergency Medicine Residency in San Antonio, TX and was promoted to the rank of Major. While stationed at Ft. Hood, TX assigned to the 36th Medical Evacuation Battalion, Major Ellison was deployed in support of Operation: Iraqi Freedom during the initial phase of combat operations into Iraq. Attached to the 3rd Infantry Division, Major Ellison was one of the first medical personnel to arrive at Saddam Hussein International Airport on April 5, 2003 during the initial operations to secure Baghdad.

Dr. Ellison currently resides in Central Texas with his wife and children. He resigned from the Army in 2004 but continues to see many military retirees and dependents in the Emergency Departments he now attends.

RESPONSE FROM A DOCTOR

RE: Earn This:

Your note about the movie Saving Private Ryan touched me deeply. As you know I am a doctor specializing in Emergency Medicine in the Emergency Departments of the only two military Level One trauma centers. They are both in San Antonio, TX and they care for civilian emergencies as well as military personnel. San Antonio has the largest military retiree population in the world living here because of the location of these two large military medical centers.

As a military doctor in training for my specialty I work long hours and the pay is less than glamorous. One tends to become jaded by the long hours, lack of sleep, food, family contact and the endless parade of human suffering passing before you. The arrival of another ambulance does not mean more pay, only more work. Most often it is a victim from a motor vehicle crash. Often it is a person of dubious character who has been shot or stabbed. With our large military retiree population it is often a nursing home patient. Even with my enlisted service and minimal combat experience in Panama prior to medical school, I have caught myself groaning when the ambulance brought in yet another sick, elderly person from one of the local retirement centers that cater to military retirees. I had not stopped to think of what citizens of this age group represented.

I saw Saving Private Ryan. I was touched deeply. Not so much by the carnage in the first 30 minutes but by the sacrifices of so many. I was touched most by the scene of the elderly survivor at the graveside asking his wife if he’d been a good man. I realized that I had seen these same men and women coming through my Emergency Department and had not realized what magnificent sacrifices they had made. The things they did for me and everyone else that has lived on this planet since the end of that conflict are priceless.

Situation permitting I now try to ask my patients about their experiences. They would never bring up the subject without the inquiry. I have been privileged to an amazing array of experiences recounted in the brief minutes allowed in an Emergency Department encounter. These experiences have revealed the incredible individuals I have had the honor of serving in a medical capacity, many on their last admission to the hospital.

There was a frail, elderly woman who reassured my young enlisted medic trying to start an IV line in her arm. She remained calm and poised despite her illness and the multiple needle-sticks into her fragile veins. She was what we call a “hard stick.” As the medic made another attempt I noticed a number tattooed across her forearm. I touched it with one finger and looked into her eyes. She simply said “Auschwitz.” Many of later generations would have loudly and openly berated the young medic in his many attempts. How different was the response from this person who’d seen unspeakable suffering.

A long retired Colonel who as a young USN officer had parachuted from his burning plane over a pacific island held by the Japanese. Now an octogenarian, his head cut in a fall at home where he lived alone. His CT scan and suturing had been delayed until after midnight by the usual parade of high priority ambulance patients. Still spry for his age, he asked to use the phone to call a taxi to take him home then realized his ambulance had brought him without his wallet. He asked if he could use the phone to make a long distance call to his daughter who lived 70 miles away. With great pride we told him that he could not as he’d done enough for his country and the least we could do was get him a taxi home, even if we had to pay for it ourselves. My only regret was that my shift wouldn’t end for several hours and I couldn’t drive him myself.

I was there the night MSG Roy Benavidez came through the Emergency Department for the last time. He was very sick. I was not the doctor taking care of him but I walked to his bedside and took his hand. I said nothing. He was so sick he didn’t know I was there. I’d read his Congressional Medal of Honor citation and wanted to shake his hand. He died a few days later.

The gentleman who served with Merrill’s Marauders, the survivor of the Bataan Death March, the survivor Omaha Beach, the 101 year old World War I veteran, the former POW held in frozen North Korea, the former Special Forces medic now with non-operable liver cancer, the former Vietnam Corps Commander. I remember these citizens. I may still groan when yet another ambulance comes in but now I am much more aware of what an honor it is to serve these particular men and women. I am angered at the cut backs, implemented, and proposed, that will continue to decay their meager retirement benefits. I see the President and Congress who would turn their back on these individuals who’ve sacrificed so much to protect our liberty. I see later generations that seems to be totally engrossed in abusing these same liberties won with such sacrifice. It has become my personal endeavor to make the nurses and young enlisted medics aware of these amazing individuals when I encounter them in our Emergency Dept. Their response to these particular citizens has made me think that perhaps all is not lost in the next generation.

My experiences have solidified my belief that we are losing an incredible generation and this nation knows not what it is losing. Our un-caring government, and ungrateful civilian populace should all take note. We should all remember that we must “Earn this.”

Rangers Lead the Way!

Author’s Note: This letter was written as a personal correspondence to a friend, Mr. Gene Tuttle, in April 2000 while I served in the U.S. Army under the administration of then President Clinton. Although not intended for widespread circulation, the email was forwarded to many others and has continued to circulate around the world. It is hoped that this letter will help bring focus to the difficulties faced by those who serve or have served in the Armed Forces of the United States.

Webmaster’s Note: After communicating with Dr Ellison several years ago, I have not since been able to locate or contact him. In his correspondence to me, he indicated that his article may be reproduced providing that no changes are made to the text and that he is properly credited with its authorship.

Dr Ellison’s article prompted the response, “From a Psychiatric Nurse” – ©Copyright April 2005 by Tish Mathis, and has attracted several comments, which may be views by clicking the following button.