A Soldier's Story: Dr. Spencer Guinn

November 27, 2005 – Posted at 9:14 p.m. CST

JONESBORO, AR -- With our troops fighting overseas, it's safe to say that there are many heroes sacrificing their comforts, time and even lives for our country.

One Region 8 doctor has been home from Iraq for just over two years, but the memories of his experience will long be with him.

Dr. Spencer Guinn served in Iraq from February to October of 2003. He worked as a medic saving lives out of tents and make-shift metal buildings in the desert, and while it was a far cry from a normal operating room...all the risks were much greater.

"The injuries that we were taking care of, no body could have ever prepared me for. There are some absolutely devastating injuries being caused by these roadside bombs, or these improvised explosive devices, and those are the ones that are causing the majority of our casualties at this point," said Dr. Guinn.

As a member of the Army Reserves Fourth Surgical Team, the Jonesboro surgeon became part of an elite 20-man mobile unit stationed on the front lines in Iraq ....where the horrors of war became his reality.

"It's almost a surreal experience when you're back here and you're walking around and everything is comfortable and safe. To look back on what you have been in, it almost doesn't seem real," said Dr. Guinn.

And daily reminders on the news don't help him forget the gruesome images he saw everyday.

"You imagine somebody comes in and they are covered from head to toe with these wounds and they may be all full of nails and rocks and things, so those were just horrific injuries," said Dr. Guinn.

And conditions were less than desirable.

"We had about a two week stretch where the temperature was reaching in the upwards of 130's everyday, plus you would have 40 or 50 mile per hour winds out of the desert. You would be lucky if it got down to 120 inside the operating room," said Dr. Guinn, "Until you actually experience it, you have no comprehension of what it's like, and the confusion and the fear and everything else that's going on around you."

Although Dr. Guinn expects to be called back to duty, it doesn't keep him from suffering from survivor's guilt.

"One of the things that I faced when I got back was that you almost felt guilty, that you're back and that you are safe and didn't sustain any injuries, where people that you are working along side with in combat are still under constant fire everyday," said Dr. Guinn.

But it's evident that high pressure is something that doesn't bother Dr. Guinn. His role at home is more than just an orthopedic surgeon...he also works to back the Jonesboro blue.

"He trains; he does the same thing we do. he runs the drills, he gets no special benefits just because he's a doctor. now, we're going to take care of our doctor, but he trains and gets down in the trenches with us and does exactly what we do, the way we do it," said Lt. Roy Coleman of the Jonesboro Police Department.

Jonesboro SWAT is one of only two teams in the state that run a physician as a reserve officer.

"When I volunteered for the Army, I figured that the least I could do was to be there in case one of these men or women got injured in the field. And I sort of feel the same way about the Jonesboro Police Department. It's a very brave group of people that are out there risking their lives on a daily basis for us to help us live in a safer community, so it's the least I can do to volunteer my time for them," said Dr. Guinn.

And when he is not training or working, Dr. Guinn is preparing...for what ever might come next.

"I'm still very supportive of what we are trying to accomplish," said Dr. Guinn, "It's a difficult situation, but I think that the men and women that we have over there right now are still doing an excellent job and everybody is working very hard. And I think that our overall goal is still a noble one."

Dr. Guinn has taken his hundreds of pictures and memories from his experience and turned it into a program for other medical professionals to show them what it is like to practice medicine in the worst of conditions.