Gen. Colin Powell, former Secretary of State, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and National Security Advisor died Monday, Oct. 18. He had served the United States for more than four decades. He was 84. He truly was an American hero. He died of complications of COVID-19. He had been fully vaccinated and was scheduled to be given a booster last week when he became acutely ill. He was susceptible to COVID even though vaccinated because he was immunosuppressed.
At one time Gen. Powell was the most admired person in the United States. Both political parties wanted to draft him to run for president. He had followed the best traditions of our military such that no one actually knew what his political positions and party identification was or if he even was enrolled in a party. He turned both parties down saying he felt that campaigning wasn’t for him.
“The Taliban likes to attack on holidays,” said Dr. Joon K. Shim, who arrived at Bassett Hospital Jan. 26 as a surgeon, as well as program director of the Columbia-Bassett Residency, training young doctors.
She heard “a huge ‘kaboom’” – a mortar attack. “I was on the floor with my face to the ground. I thought I would die that day,” said the physician, who was serving one of three deployments in Afghanistan.
But duty called in the form of an injured soldier, and she was soon back at the operating table.
“He held my hand and said, ‘Dr. Shim, I want to live’,” she remembered. Later, he had the opportunity to tell her, “Thank you for saving my life.”
She’s not the only Bassett physician to experience war. Dr. Shelby Cooper, a Navy lieutenant commander, was deployed to Afghanistan. So was the hospital’s president, Dr. Bill LeCates, who also serves as state surgeon for the New York State National Guard.
Still, on active duty for three deployments, in 2011, 2012 and 2013, Dr. Shim’s story, as she told it in a recent interview, is like an action thriller, beginning when – a recent Bryn Mawr, magna cum laude philosophy major – 9/11 happened.