By: Sarah Snyder
It's a day honoring and remembering those who have fought for our freedom. Greetings of 'Happy Veteran's Day' can be heard almost everywhere. But you might not think about saying those words to your doctor. One Midland physician recently returned from a tour of duty oversees working with thousands of troops and prisoners.
It was just a few months ago, Dr. Federico Ilang-Ilang Jr. left the familiar and safe walls of his Midland clinic to land in a region filled with turmoil.
"We're a part of the team," Dr. Federico Ilang-Ilang Jr. said. "The mission must be accomplished."
That mission is to take care of U.S. troops. Dr. Ilang-Ilang was deployed to Baghdad where he worked in hospitals binding up wounds and making sure our soldiers stay healthy.
"I would really like to be of service to our soldiers," Dr. Ilang-Ilang said. "That motivated me."
"When we think of people going into the service, I think we think of an American soldier or serviceman in generic terms," Dr. Michael Austin, CEO of Midland Community Healthcare Services, said. "What we don't realize is that it could be your doctor, your dentist, or your tax accountant. It could be anybody."
But even in the confines of a hospital or camp for Dr. Ilang, every day was a risk.
"In the middle of the night, we had to all get up from our house because the loud speakers told us to take cover after hearing a loud explosion about ten miles from our camp," Dr. Ilang-Ilang said.
Not only did he work with troops, but under the Geneva Convention, he helped to treat detainees. As a pediatrician and internalist, Dr. Ilang says his greatest joy stemmed from interacting with the troops every day.
"Soldiers, we've got to provide the services if they need them," Dr. Ilang-Ilang said. "It's important because we have to keep everybody healthy."
And on this Veterans Day, he simply wants West Texans to remember those who have served and who are still sacrificing for freedom.
"Their own personal sacrifices as well as family sacrifices is everything," Dr. Ilang-Ilang said. "It cannot be measured - especially this Veterans Day."
"I guess the thing that hit home for all of us is that a serviceman can be anyone, a veteran can be anyone," Dr. Austin said. "They've all done a remarkable service for the country and the community."