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March 28, 2003
 
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(AP Photo)
Friendship Unites Senate Leader, Officer
Friendship Forged During 1991 Iraq War Unite Senate Leader Frist, 101st Airborne Leader

The Associated Press


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Ambushed U.S. Soldiers' Tale of Survival
Desert Hospital Treats Wounded In the Field
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WASHINGTON March 28

When Maj. Gen. David Petraeus first met Sen. Bill Frist they were in an operating room. One man was a patient felled by a M-16 gunshot wound to the chest; the other the surgeon who would save him.

The life-threatening episode in 1991 helped forge a friendship that today stretches across the globe, where Petraeus commands the 101st Airborne Division in Iraq and Frist leads the Senate as Republican majority leader. The two talked as recently as last Wednesday, the start of the Iraq war.

"In his mind, he introduces me as the surgeon who saved his life and shows his scar to demonstrate," Frist, R-Tenn., said in an interview Thursday night.

Frist, a heart surgeon at the time at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tenn., operated on Petraeus after he was shot in the chest with an M-16 round fired at close range by a careless soldier.

Recalling that afternoon in 1991, Frist said he got a call from the emergency room that a person with a gunshot wound to the left chest was coming in. When Petraeus arrived, Frist put in a chest tube and it was clear the patient was bleeding faster than blood could be replenished.

Frist explained to Petraeus on the way to the operating room that there was risk of infection from the bullet.

"Halfway through the explanation, he said, 'Doctor, let's go get this over with; you need to tell me nothing more,'" Frist recalled.

"He was tough, a real soldier. It fits with his overall image with jumping out of airplanes, breaking his pelvis," he said, referring to the commander's surviving the collapse of his parachute 60 feet up during a free fall jump a few years back.

Petraeus was out of bed within 12 hours of surgery half the time it takes for the average patient, something Frist attributes to his top physical condition.

Frist recalled Petraeus "apologizing for the guy who shot him."

The 1st Brigade of the 101st started arriving Thursday at an undisclosed location near Baghdad.

Its arrival comes just four days after a grenade attack on a 101st Airborne command center in Kuwait took the lives of two American officers and injured 14 others. An Army sergeant is accused in the attack. Petraeus was not at the scene.

Last week Frist called Petraeus to express his respect for his leadership and for the soldiers he's leading into battle.

"I said I'd look forward to calling him, and asked for the area code in Baghdad so I could call him in the near future in Baghdad," the senator said.

The two attended the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University, at different times, and in October they ran the Army 10-miler together in Washington.

Although they started at the same time, Petraeus quickly disappeared in the crowd ahead of Frist, running about a 7-minute mile.


photo credit and caption:
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., speaks during a news conference after the Senate approval of the budget at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, March 26, 2003. The Senate approved a $2.2 trillion budget for next year on Wednesday that hands President Bush a setback on his domestic agenda, giving him less than half the $726 billion in tax reductions he wants for reviving the economy. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

Copyright 2003 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

 
 
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