Brazilian-Born Medic Shares Life-Saving Skills With Afghans
By Dialogo June 15, 2011
“I don’t think I adopted America. America adopted me,” Brazilian-born Army Cpl. Joel M. Kuhn said as he sat outside of Nangalam Base in eastern Afghanistan’s Kunar province.
As a boy, Kuhn, a combat medic assigned to Task Force Bronco, looked up to his father and cousins, who were in the Brazilian army.
When Kuhn first thought about enlisting in the U.S. Army, he said, he was on a work visa in Glendale, Calif., and looking for something else to do that not only was exciting, but also would help to pay his bills. He decided to become a combat medic in 2008 because of an enlistment bonus, and he called his mother in Brazil to tell her the good news.
“The first thing she asked me if my [specialty] had to work with the infantry on the front lines or if I would be working in a hospital setting,” Kuhn said. “I told her, ‘You know, I never asked that before. That should be one of the questions that I should have asked my recruiter.‘”
Kuhn smiled and shook his head.
“But I told her, ‘The way that things are going, the way I see it, I will probably be working with the infantry,’” he said. “And I guess I was right.”
Now, on his second combat tour with the infantry, Kuhn couldn’t have been more right. Most days, he treats troops in combat, and on some days, he trains troops what to do in combat.
“All right, let’s say your battle buddy gets shot in the leg. Where do you want to put the tourniquet to stop the bleeding?” Kuhn asked Afghan soldiers during medical training at Nangalam Base. He patiently waited for a response, then asked the soldier who answered to show him how to put a tourniquet on properly.
Sgt. Nathan A. Timmons, an infantry team leader, said Kuhn behaves in the same way at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, their home station.
“You don’t know something, he’ll spend the time to teach you,” he said. “He likes to help people — likes to make sure they are doing the right thing. All in all, I think it’s good for him, [and] good for everybody else, as well.”
Timmons deployed with Kuhn during a dangerous tour in Iraq.
“I would not take any other medic if I had a choice, and that’s the God’s honest truth,” he said. “Just the way he is, I mean. I’ve seen some medics who know their job. By all means, our medics are good, but Kuhn goes above and beyond.”