Behind Angels with Producers Cyd Upson and Ayse Wieting

"War Stories" producers Ayse Wieting and Cyd Upson
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How is this "War Stories" different from others in the series?

Cyd: For this show we decided to really focus on the nurses, the medics, the corpsmen — the people who provide that first care to an injured soldier, sailor, airman, or Marine. We wanted to focus on these individuals who are such selfless caregivers. Did you focus on a particular time period?

 We started from the Revolution all the way to the present-day Iraqi Freedom conflict, and even though the medicine and technology has changed, the stories are all the same. Everyone talks of the nurse, the corpsman, the medic that patched them up, who nursed them back to life. It doesn't matter if it was 100 years ago or yesterday. And because the technology has changed so drastically, their job has become paramount — those with really deadly wounds are now recovering, and they need that human touch more than ever.  Medics are so close to the horrors of armed conflict — what are their feelings on matters of war and peace?

The first question you ask them is “How do you deal with it?”  I mean you wonder how they handle seeing these wounds — people’s limbs blown off or faces purple or nearly gone from frostbite. And what they tell you is, “it’s just a job.” They can’t really think about what’s going on, otherwise they won’t be able to do their job. So they have to be apolitical.

Cyd: Another thing Ayse and I found is that at one time or another, the medics we spoke with all treated the enemy.

Ayse: Not only are medical professionals humanitarians that take the Hippocratic Oath and are supposed to save lives, regardless of color, race or creed, but also there are laws that govern their wartime behavior. The Geneva Convention states that you have to treat the enemy. You have to give a POW the same treatment you would expect them to give your soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines. So that’s one thing that people don’t know. Is there a story from this episode that will stay with you for years to come?

Ayse: The ending is phenomenal. There is a Navy Corpsman, Einsten Muñoz, that at 19 years old treated a captain whose arm had been blown off by a rocket-propelled grenade. You look at him, and you’re like “He’s in the Navy? How old is he? What’s he doing there?” He has this final interaction with Col. North, and I’ve seen this maybe 15 times, and I still get goose bumps. How would you describe these people to someone who has never met a battlefield nurse or a medic?

Cyd: It’s just that they are all amazingly cool under pressure. They have to be. And they have that forethought to do the right thing. Einsten had the forethought to know that if he had given Capt. Frei morphine, he wouldn’t have been able to walk and they wouldn’t have been able to move him through the fire. It would have taken two or three Marines who could have been fighting to carry him off. And he had the mindset to think that through in the middle of a fierce firefight.

Ayse: It is so surprising because he’s a high school student that just got up and decided to join the Marines. And I don’t know how to describe it...I can’t fathom what they do.

I’m in awe of them.

Ayse: I can’t fathom being in that situation, because your first instinct is to flee, for crying out loud! I mean, you’re not going to sit there and take care of someone else — but they do.

Don't miss an all new episode of "War Stories: Angels on the Battlefield" this Sunday at 8 pm ET.