Rule Number Two – Lessons I Learned in a Combat Hospital

Tales of the fearsome camel spider are told throughout Iraq. In truth, it is about the size of a human hand, and it is quite fast. It runs at five miles an hour, sometimes even more, determined to stay in a newfound shadow – a slow-moving Humvee, for example, or a clinical psychologist on her way back to her barracks from the shower.

Rule Number Two: Lessons I Learned in a Combat Hospital is a first-hand account of seven months with a Marine Corps surgical company, immersed in Iraq, earth-shaking artillery rounds, and the all-encompassing desert. Dr. Heidi Squier Kraft chronicles the “good-egg days” and “bad-egg days”, orange sunsets and red sunrises, and the feeling of long-sleeved combat fatigues in 132 degree heat. She deployed to Iraq with less than two weeks notice, leaving fifteen month old twins at home. Rule Number Two conveys the agonizing experience of a mother separated from her children – and the ways that people help each other through unimaginable situations.

More than anything else, though, Kraft’s story is about a sense of awe at the soldiers who were brought to her combat hospital – some with severe injuries from battle, and others bearing wounds no surgeon could uncover – and the painful truth of the two rules of war, as told in the television show M*A*S*H: rule number one is that young men die, and rule number two is that doctors can’’t change rule number one.

Heidi Squier Kraft received her PhD in clinical psychology from the University of California-San Diego School of Medicine in 1996. She joined the Navy during her internship and served as both a flight and a clinical psychologist. She left active duty in 2005 after nine years in the Navy and now serves as the deputy coordinator for the U.S. Navy Combat Stress Control Program. She lives in San Diego with her husband and children.

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