Marrett Gilfus recalled the moment he knew he would make a good paramedic. It was in the Helmand province in Afghanistan. He had been trained as a combat lifesaver in the Marine Corps, which doesn’t have its own medical corpsmen. That day, he was rear man in a QRF, or quick reaction force. He and the others took fire from behind, and he happened to have machine gun ammunition on him.
“I ran back down the line of patrol yelling, ‘Who got shot? Who got shot?’” When he realized that the gunner – a friend of his -- was hit, Gilfus turned his ammunition over to his lieutenant while he tried to stop the gunner’s bleeding. He’d been hit in the chest. While the lieutenant covered for him, Gilfus put a chest seal and dressing on the wound to stop the bleeding.
That wasn’t the only time Gilfus was calm under unnerving circumstances. At one point, his MRAP, or mine-resistant ambush protected vehicle, rolled over into a ditch filled with water. He, being the turret gunner, ended upside down in the water, fully expecting to drown. His first thought was that his life was over … and then he heard shouting and realized that he could force his way free.
“I worry about much less since then,” he said.
Gilfus was in the Marine Corps from 2007 to 2011 and has brought the skills of being a combat lifesaver to his academic track of a BS in Emergency Services, with a concentration in critical care. He anticipates graduating in May 2015.
“I’m a lot calmer than I used to be,” he said. At 25, he is also older than many of the other students in this program, and he thinks that his maturity as well as his experience in the Marine Corps have given him a resilience to panic.
“I am focused when something is going wrong,” he said. “Some just aren’t ready for that.”
A professor in the Emergency Services program once told him that it’s not his emergency, it’s the patient, so there really isn’t any need to panic. He has taken full advantage of the post 9/11 GI Bill® and said that it’s given him the ability to go to school full time and not worry about how to pay rent or buy books. Gilfus is focused and devoted to his studies, intending to apply for a job in either Roanoke City or County. In between studies, he finds time to volunteer with the Vinton First Aid Crew and relishes the choice he’s made to go into what he calls “a stressful field. It’s hours and hours of nothing, followed by a few minutes of applying everything you have learned all at once."
This, so similar to his tour of duty, which he said was six months of patrolling during which there were three firefights. He’s ready for more, due to his military training, his intensive instruction in the ES program, and his commitment to academics, which he attributes to his maturity.
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