Not All Medics Are Made The Same
When most people picture the war in Iraq, they don’t imagine soldiers handing out U.S.
rations or sipping chai with the locals. Former U.S. Army Combat Medic Nicholas Van Ishem
DelCorpo said these things were common occurrences.
For DelCorpo, serving his country meant serving the Iraqis, too – and for six years he did
“I figured if I’m there and not actively doing my work as a medic for the Americans, I
should try to do as much good for whoever was around me,” said DelCorpo.
He compared his job to that of a paramedic, but with the freedom to do more advanced
procedures in the field as needed. Once, he inserted a chest tube into an Iraqi soldier with a gun-
shot wound as the sounds of crossfire continued around him. That particular day, he had been
awake for more than 36 hours before he treated the patient, later sent to a hospital in Baghdad.
For DelCorpo, the lows were low. On his worst day in the Army, he lost his best friend. If
he had a chance to go back, he wouldn’t have chosen enlistment. He talks of guns and violence as
things that “aren’t really for him.” DelCorpo said yelling, and being yelled at wasn’t his definition of
fun and that life in the infantry unit was a chore. He especially didn’t like the marching.
But, he hadn’t studied hard enough in high school and said he needed a plan after graduation.
DelCorpo joined the U.S. Army when he was just 19 years old and eventually worked his
way up to becoming a company medic in charge of about 150 soldiers.
“You start as an assistant to a medic in charge of a platoon of about 50 men,” he said. “If
you stay long enough, you get a platoon of your own. Then you take a company of four platoons
and it goes up and up.”
His mission didn’t include handing out extra medicine or MREs (Meal Ready to Eat.) But
he did it anyway. DelCorpo said Iraqi civilians were not allowed to get close to the soldiers
without being searched first – yet they often greeted them with tea. They spoke no English and
he spoke little Arabic. He said civilians never stayed long, as they feared being seen on the
wrong side of war.
“It made a big, big difference to their quality of life, believe it or not,” said DelCorpo.
“We gave them a case every day for weeks.”
DelCorpo doesn’t remember the names of the Iraqis he met, but he can recall glimpses of
their faces. He said his biggest regret was not taking enough pictures.
“It didn’t seem important at the time,” said DelCorpo. “But looking back I wish I would
have taken a lot more.”
During his first tour, DelCorpo served in Iraq for two years before he was injured.
However, he was able to continue his service. His second tour, he was injured again after four
years, but that time it ended his career. DelCorpo still doesn’t talk about the incident that sent
DelCorpo said many of his friends went on to serve in the Army for decades, but he
couldn’t see himself doing it for the next 20 years.
Now, he’s earning his second degree, a Master’s in Investigative Journalism at the Walter
Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University (ASU).
DelCorpo is proud to be the first man in his family to graduate from college. He’s applied his
army rhetoric, and observation skills towards his new mission of finishing school.
“Now, I really don’t have a life outside of ASU,” said DelCorpo. “I have little time for