“Our primary mission is to care for the troops,” he says, “but another part of our mission is to care for the children hurt by war. We’re over there to win hearts and minds and what better way to do that than to care for someone’s child?”
Between 15 and 20 percent of the patients cared for at the NATO medical facilities throughout Afghanistan have been children.
Dr. Walton joined the Navy Reserve two years ago. “I thought I had a skill my country could use,” he says. “Our country has given me great opportunities and I am privileged to be able to give back. There are still soldiers in harm’s way and someone needs to be there to care for them.”
As a lieutenant commander, Dr. Walton will report to his home base in Saginaw and will then fly to San Diego to do casualty training with others in his medical unit. He’ll then proceed to an Army base to complete combat training with M4 assault rifles and side arms. “After our training, we’re expected to deploy to Afghanistan in mid-Pediatric emergency medicine director readies for Afghanistan deployment August. We’ll be ‘sand sailors’ then,” he says.
He’s being deployed as an “individual augmentee,” which means he’s going to fill a specific medical role. “We’re required to do more than 100 hours of online training to get ready. I’ve also gotten my immunizations, medical screenings and created a will and power of attorney,” Dr. Walton says. “The hardest part will be the separation from my family. My wife recently retired from the military and my children are on their own. They are supportive, but it’s still going to be difficult. My orders are for eight months up to a year.”
For security reasons, Dr. Walton can’t be any more specific than to say he’ll be serving at a medical facility at a base in Afghanistan. “I’m honored to be going,” he says. “If any casualties reach our facilities, they have a 98 percent survival rate. The injuries we will see can be pretty horrific. You have to be constantly aware, and remember that you’re in a place where people are hostile to you, even as you are trying to help.”
Deploying so close to the Fourth of July has special meaning to Dr. Walton. “Being in the military makes you look at the flag differently,” he says. “When you’re wearing your uniform, you’re wearing the cloth of your nation. I hope to do my best, whether I’m caring for our troops or an Afghani. Everyone who has been deployed as a medical provider returns feeling like they’ve done some good.
I believe that when Americans go somewhere to help and provide care, that’s when we have a chance to change the way the world looks at us.”
Join us in thanking Dr. Walton and all his colleagues in the armed forces for their service.