Courage and compassion should make us all proud

STEVE CANAVAN: Take note of why I love this country so much

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It’s impossible for any of us to imagine what it must be like to be a medic working in Afghanistan, to be trying to save lives amidst fierce fighting when your own safety is at risk.

All we do know is that it must take an enormous amount of courage and dedication.

So we salute the 200 Royal Navy medics, plus 18 Army and RAF personnel and three civilians, who gathered at HMS Excellent in Portsmouth yesterday to be presented with medals by the Duchess of Cornwall for their service in the warzone last year.

They all have their own individual stories to tell of events that happened during the six-month deployment as part of Operation Herrick 14.

Today we feature the moving experiences of Medical Assistant Marc Duncan, who served with 1 Rifles regiment in Nar-e Saraj.

He tried in vain to save a young Afghan boy who had stepped on an Improvised Explosive Device (IED). Marc recalled how he managed to keep the badly-injured boy alive and get him on a helicopter to hospital.

Sadly, he discovered that the boy later died. But Marc, along with all the medics out in Afghanistan, had done his very best.

Other stories had happier endings. Able Seaman Michelle Ping saved the life of a soldier who was shot in the head.

Meanwhile RAF medic Corporal Stephanie Roberts served in the emergency department at Camp Bastion hospital and said: ‘Quite often I would go and see the patients in the wards after we’d treated them and say “I was there when you came in” and the gratitude they showed was amazing.’

She added: ‘But that’s our job, that’s what we were there for.’

The medics may not see what they do as remarkable, but we should be extremely proud of the high-class medical care and first aid they provide to the injured in such difficult conditions.

We hope it won’t be too long before all our service personnel are able to leave Afghanistan and return home.

But while they are there, we can be sure they will continue to do their jobs with great professionalism and compassion.