BRIGHTON — Michael Dolnick appreciates the simple things: a steady job, a nice meal, a warm, safe bed. As an active duty Navy reservist, he knows soldiers worldwide rarely get those freedoms because of the violence looming at their doors.
Dolnick, a lieutenant for the Tribe’s Fire Rescue Department, recently returned after his latest tour of duty as a medic in Afghanistan and is happy to be home enjoying things most Americans take for granted.
“Cold beer,” said Dolnick, referring to what he loves about being back. “A nice cooked steak and sharing time with friends and family.”
Dolnick, 48, is proud to still be serving his country as a Navy corpsman. He was stationed at the NATO Role 3 Multinational Medical Unit trauma hospital for seven months in Kandahar, and as the first line of care, he saw mutilated soldiers lugged in fresh off the battlefield and onto his table.
The hospital, at the Kandahar Airfield, has a 98 percent survival rate, meaning that nearly everyone who comes in with a pulse moves on to the next line of care after the trauma team. As a NATO hospital, they not only treated American soldiers but also patients from different nations and backgrounds – even the Taliban.
“It was very hard to work on our guys that were shot and then work on the enemy right after,” he said.
Dolnick endured inhospitable working conditions while in Afghanistan. He dealt with a constant threat of attack on his workplace, multiple traumas coming in at once and unpredictable work schedules. He was always on call.
Because of that, Dolnick doesn’t sweat the small stuff.
“A lot of people take for granted the little things, little things you can’t do in Afghanistan or Iraq,” he said.
Dolnick’s first deployment was to Germany in 2008, where he worked in a trauma hospital for 13 months. He said he treated injuries similar to those of the Boston Marathon bombing. If a terrorist attack occurred, he said he would know exactly what to do.
“Most definitely, my skills are tenfold better,” he said.
Dolnick was hired by the Tribe’s Fire Department in Brighton in 2005. He said he’s fortunate to work for a community that takes care of its veterans.
“The Tribe is definitely a big supporter of the military,” he said. “They love their veterans.”
He compared the differences between his homecoming to that of Vietnam veterans.
“They came back and couldn’t wear their uniforms. People spit on them,” he said of Vietnam veterans. “When we came back, there were 200 people clapping for us when we got off the plane.”
After seven months in a combat zone, Dolnick, of Jensen Beach, looks forward to spending time with his loved ones, including his children, Kasey, 22, Sarah, 19, and Jake, 16.