Early in 2004, in the wake of 9/11, Edward Horvath, a Vietnam-era Navy medical officer, felt compelled to leave his home and career in Cleveland and rejoin the military. “They need doctors,” he explained to his wife. On April 19, he writes in his memoir “Good Medicine, Hard Times,” he raised his right hand to take the oath of service for a second time, then shipped out to the U.S. Army’s 256th Combat Support Hospital in Iraq. He was 57 years old. He would stay on for two more deployments, through August 2014, leaving only when forced to do so, on his mandatory removal date—namely, his 68th birthday.
The spring of 2008 found Dr. Horvath, now an Army colonel, as chief physician in an emergency medical treatment center near Tikrit. His beds were filled with “wounded of all ages—men, women, and children, mostly Iraqi citizens intermixed with a few soldiers.” It was his duty to care for them all, including a loud-mouthed young terrorist—“AQI, Al Qaeda in Iraq”—being treated for minor wounds before being turned over, as the Iraqis required, to the local police. Dr. Horvath was unnerved by this hateful person, and by the strength of their visceral contempt for each other: “I felt relief when he was gone.”