By Chuck Roberts, special to Soldiers MagazineJune 27, 2008
Sgt. Rodolfo Martinez was medevaced to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, Germany, following a vehicle-bomb explosion in Afghanistan that also trapped him beneath rubble. The forward observer, assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division's 508th Infantry Regiment, would like to return to LRMC one day, but in a different capacity, he said.
His journey to LRMC began in March with the blast that killed two of his friends - Sgt. Robert Rapp and Spc. Stephen Koch - and buried Martinez beneath three feet of rubble inside a collapsed building. When he regained consciousness, he panicked and began trying to dig his way out. But his struggle only caused more dirt to fall.
Martinez stopped when he realized he would soon suffocate from breathing in the dirt. But the debris continued to fall and Martinez felt he was about to die. When the dirt finally stopped falling, he could hear Soldiers searching for survivors. They heard his screams for help but couldn't determine where he was.
Summoning all his strength, Martinez moved the rubble slightly enough to be found by rescuers, who extricated him and soon had him on his way to Bagram Air Base for a medical-evacuation flight to Germany.
When his aircraft landed at Ram-stein Air Base, Martinez and other wounded Soldiers were loaded onto a blue ambulance bus for the short trip to LRMC. They were among more than 46,000 servicemembers and civilians who have made the same trek since Operation Enduring Freedom began in October 2001.
Martinez and four Soldiers from his platoon were among the patients on litters gently lowered from the tail end of the bus into the upraised hands of LRMC staffers. It's a scene that takes place virtually every day.
A Warm Greeting
The first interaction wounded Soldiers have with LRMC comes in the form of a chaplain who extends a warm greeting and reminds them they're safe and in good hands.
For Chaplain (Col.) James Griffith, LRMC is the place to be for a military chaplain.
"It's the best job I've ever had in the Army," said Griffith, whose staff includes six active-duty, Reserve and National Gu