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Poetry and Medicine
September 14, 2011

The Lieutenant’s Story

Author Affiliations

Poetry and Medicine Section Editor: Charlene Breedlove, Associate Editor. Poems may be submitted to jamapoems@jama-archives.org.

Author Affiliation: Ballard Pediatric Clinic, Seattle, Washington (tmcmahon@u.washington.edu)
JAMA. 2011;306(10):1061. doi:10.1001/jama.2011.1192
The mines were laid in orderly arrays by German boysso sure they would prevail, so sure that they’d returnone day to dig them up. So said my fatherwhen the conversation turned to IEDsand amputees, breaking seventy years of silenceabout his Normandy platoon. “They're treating themmuch better, now,” he said, as he recalled his sergeantrunning back into the field, the tally one mine short—and then his foot attached only by the big tendon in back,which the medic cut. All of them cursing,the morphine injector failing to pierce khakitill the sergeant said, “Lieutenant, it’d work betterif you took the guard off that needle.” After the warhe got a letter from that Kentucky sergeantwho wrote, “ I got my rifle, my mule,and my dog. I’m happy.” My father smiledwhen he told that part.