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Siffring speaks: War vet sees good in all people

After three tours in Afghanistan, Lt. Col. Corydon W. Siffring says he is “a lot more grateful for what we have here.”
Siffring, currently the medical director of the Level 1 Trauma Center at Wellmont Holston Valley Medical Center in Kingsport, was the keynote speaker at the Town of Jonesborough’s Veterans Tribute on Sunday afternoon.
Siffring served as a member of the Army’s new version of the M.A.S.H. unit, called “Forward Surgical Teams.”
As a part of that unit, Siffring treated both coalition soldiers and Afghan citizens.
He described his first night in Ghazni, as “something like you’d see on TV and nothing I ever thought I’d be a part of.”His unit was faced with 17 surgical patients at once as a result of a major munitions blast that went through a vehicle carrying Afghan citizens.
“The explosion killed one person and severely injured the other 17,” Siffring recalls. “We ended up doing seven amputations, gave many units of blood and used 70 tourniquets.”
While several of the 17 patients lost limbs, all survived.
Siffring learned later that the case was the largest influx of urgent surgical patients to ever come into a Forward Surgical Team.
Siffring says his 20 years of experience in the Army Medical Service have taught him a lot about trauma incidents here in the United States.
“Some of the really bad car wrecks produce similar injuries to those from people being hit by some of the very high-powered explosives,” Siffring says. “It (the experience) has helped me, after seeing it over there at such a high rate.”
The big difference, he says, between soldiers and civilians, is that most people in the United States don’t expect to be hurt at any given moment.
“In our minds, that is always something that happens to somebody else,” he says. “But those soldiers expect it all the time, and the hyper-vigilance is hard on them.”
Siffring says his service in Afghanistan has caused him to look at the world differently.
“It has made me more aware that the world is one pretty small place, and people everywhere want peace. They want to live their lives and love their families, just like everyone else,” he says.
“It also makes me less likely to write somebody off just because of who they are. I think it’s sad when entire groups are vilified. There are good people in every group.”
Siffring says he now looks at the Afghan people and sees that good.
“They’re our neighbors,” he says. “ And when I look at what they’ve done with what they have in Afghanistan — and they have so little — and how they are making it work every day, I’m impressed,” he says.
“Most of them aren’t terrorists. They are being terrorized.”
Siffring described his involvment in the Jonesborough Veterans Tribute as a “participation in the finest part of America.”
“Hearing the music from the band, seeing the Stars and Stripes,” he says, “really made me grateful for being here without having to be afraid.”