Veterans recalled, honoredMitchell man tells of service to the nation.
By: Anna Jauhola, The Daily Republic
Despite gusty winds Monday morning, Mitchell and area residents gathered at Servicemen’s Memorial Cemetery in Mitchell to celebrate service men and women, including those who gave their lives for the United States.
The half hour-long ceremony featured Dr. Martin J. Christensen, a retired colonel from the U.S. Army Reserves, as the speaker.
He spoke about his involvement in creating a first-aid kit for those on the front lines.
“The three things we needed to treat were hemorrhage, airway and breathing problems,” he said.
The Sturgis native entered the U.S. Army Reserves in June 1974. The Vietnam War ended during Christensen’s senior year at the University of South Dakota. So, he went back to school at USD for his medical degree.
He served his residency at Womack Army Hospital at Fort Bragg and helped train staff for missions in Panama, Grenada and Europe.
Christensen decided to leave active duty and moved to Mitchell in 1985 to enter private medical practice at Mitchell Clinic.
“There was no break in service,” he said. “I had 28 consecutive years.”
He wanted to continue serving his country so he joined a Reserve unit in Omaha, Neb., in 1985.
He became the unit commander in 2000.
“Then 9/11 happened and we mobilized most of the unit to the battlefield,” he said. “We spent a year at Fort Hood training.”
Having spent time overseas during Desert Storm and other skirmishes, Christensen was determined to improve front lines’ first aid capabilities during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
He was deployed to Balad, Iraq, in 2005.
Christensen helped create the first-aid kit to enhance medics’ abilities to get wounded people to a hospital.
The kit includes: a one-handed tourniquet, which a soldier can self-apply to stop bleeding; a 4-by-4 inch patch, or Chitosan, which sticks to an artery to stop the bleeding; and an Israeli bandage, which is like a big ace wrap with a bandage on it. The kit also includes rubber gloves, a nasal airway to help a wounded person breathe and sometimes also includes a needle to treat a collapsed lung.
During the year-and-a-half year mission, Christensen was able to bring his wife, Cindy, a registered nurse, with him to be his medical planner. She also served in the U.S. Army and retired in 2007. Before leaving Balad, Christensen’s team trained U.S. soldiers and 300,000 Iraqi soldiers how to use the first-aid kits. “If a wounded soldier makes it to a hospital, they have a 98 percent survival rate,” Christensen said. Once he and his team taught soldiers how to use the kits, the wounded had an even better chance of making it to hospitals from the battlefield.
“It was an honor to serve in the military and in the medical field,” he said.
Christensen lives in Mitchell, having retired from the military in 2007, and still practices medicine at Mitchell Clinic.
The Mitchell Municipal Band provided music during the ceremony.
Many visitors to the Serviceman’s Cemetery filtered to Graceland Cemetery, the Navy Lagoon and American Legion Cemetery for shorter services.
David Volk, a Vietnam veteran and former South Dakota state treasurer, spoke during the service at the American Legion Cemetery.