First, Do no harm

COL Dr. med. Jan E. Savarino, M.A.

I was chatting with a Brother the other day, he asked me: „what is it like to be a soldier and a doctor at the same time?”. A fascinating topic, that in many ways relates also to Freemasonry, and I would like to share with you today…

But before I can shed some light on the matter, allow me first to tell you my story:

The path that led me to become an healer started already when, at age 15, I became Junior life rescuer. Even if I was just a boy then, it didn’t´ take me long to realize that I had already found my calling, so after graduating from high school in the nineties, while in Germany there was still the draft, I managed to be enlisted as Airborne Medic and got some additional training and made my first experiences in the military medical field.
After the draft I went to Medical school and from that moment on, I kept always two sides of my career: one as clinic practitioner and the other as Medical Reserve Officer.

“Twice the citizen” they say in the US Army reserve, two lives – two different focuses.
It is also noteworthy that while being of course part of the military, military medical personnel are considered as “Non-combatants” by the international laws (Geneva & Hague’s Convention). You can imagine how this can get very complicated in the Theater (i.e. conflict zone).
Any medical asset marked as such, whether it is a person, a building or a vehicle, is not to be fired at, taken as prisoner or captured. On the reverse, these buildings and vehicles are not to be used to attack, store weapons or ammunition and that personnel is not allowed to be an active part in attacking the enemy.
The symbol used according to the Geneva Convention is the well-known red cross on a white circle and it stands also for the “The Red cross” founded by Brother Henry Dunant, a Mason, on the 9th of February 1863 – but that’s a different story.

Unfortunately, looking at the conflicts within the last decades, the classical war-like scenario that the Geneva convention referred to, seems greatly outdated and can nowadays only be seen in movies.
Hybrid warfare is the new norm, consisting of sabotage, internet propaganda, foreign influence on democratic elections and attacks on civil infrastructure in order to demoralize the public; nowadays, there seems to be no place anymore for the Geneva Convention.

I remember well when we had to make a hard decision in Afghanistan in 2009, after realizing that both medical armored vehicles and medical personnel were defined as primary targets by the Taliban forces: blowing up the medical support vehicle in a convoy causes the biggest confusion and fear among the troops – plus, it was easy for the propaganda to convince simple-minded Taliban that the red cross was the new incarnation of the crusaders and therefore something to attack on sight. There was the rumor back then, that a killed medical officer would bring an extra bounty which was ten times higher than the average kill pay.
As Germans, we tend to be very strict with all international and domestic laws and regulations when out on foreign military missions, trying to avoid being compared to the ruthless military actions under Nazi command 80 years ago. Thus it is comprehensible that it was a hard decision to do what our allied friend had been practising long before us: removing all Medical symbols from our vehicles.

As Brother Dunant, who had to witness the Battle of Solferino in northern Italy in 1859 and the horror of the suffering of the wounded to find the inspiration that brought the Red Cross to the world few years later, we too are currently struggling for new milestones, a set of rules everyone can agree upon and abide.

Something that will allow us to be once again able to be “super parties”, like Freemasonry, our first and foremost allegiance being first to Mankind and its God given dignity…

To be the healer that I dreamt to be already when I was only 15.

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