By Debbie Gregory.
Army Capt. Christian Labra’s first experience with the military’s combat medicine was up close and personal.
Labra graduated from a U.S. Military Academy before he deployed to Iraq. The Iraq invasion had begun a few months before he deployed with the 1st Armored Division soldiers. Army Captain Christian Labra was ready to serve his country and shared closeness with fellow soldiers.
Then one fateful night, while on patrol with another soldier, his life was changed. A wall that he believed was concealing a cache of weapons came tumbling down. The collapsed wall broke both Labra’s legs and his pelvis.
He received immediate assistance from a combat medic, and then was rushed to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany. Initially, his spirit was as broken as his body. But Labra was inspired by the care he received as a wounded warrior, inspiring him to become a military doctor.
Labra especially remembers his orthopedic doctor, Army Maj. John Friedland. Also a West Point graduate, Friedland treated Labra’s broken bones, and inspired him to turn the worst experience of his life into something positive. Labra took Army Maj. Friedland’s advice.
More than ten years after being wounded in Iraq, Army Capt. Christian Labra has completed medical school at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences. He is about to graduate from a three-year residency at the Fort Belvoir Community Hospital in Virginia.
Many wounded warriors go on to do great things after they’ve recovered from their injuries. Some eventually compete in the Paralympic Games, while some manage to return to active duty. For Army Capt. Christian Labra, recovery meant helping other soldiers who are going through what he did. Labra has become a doctor in an effort to not only treat fellow wounded warriors, but also as a tribute to the skilled physicians and surgeons who helped him recover.
Ten years later, Labra has turned tragedy to triumph. He abandoned plans to pursue a law degree, and instead, headed to the world of medicine.
As of 2012, more than 50,000 troops have been wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to figures from the Department of Defense. Labra’s success story should serve as a clear indication that many of these wounded warriors can achieve impressive levels of success.