Treating Soldiers: Chad Bender Continues to Serve Country After Originally Joining to Pay for Medical School
Chad Bender, a hand, wrist and elbow doctor with the Washington Orthopaedic Center in Centralia, originally joined the U.S. Army so he could afford medical school.
Years later, he continues to serve not to repay a debt, but because he loves it.
He recently returned from deployment with the Army Reserves in Kuwait, where he treated soldiers at the U.S. Military base from May to early August.
“The medical mission is just to maintain soldier readiness and fighting force. We see sick calls. We treat patients with musculoskeletal injuries and chronic repetitive issues,” Bender said. “And be prepared for any catastrophes that might happen.”
The U.S. has been present in Kuwait throughout the War on Terrorism in Afghanistan and Iraq, serving as a distribution location for troops and supplies.
Because he was there up until a month prior to President Joe Biden’s deadline for withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, Bender said reports coming into the base were constantly changing, and he had to be prepared to leave at a moment’s notice.
Fortunately, the trip was still overall “fairly low key,” he said.
In past deployments, that hasn’t been the case.
When he served in Afghanistan in 2013 and again in 2018, he treated patients with war trauma injuries from gunshots and explosions.
“Just from my time in the Army during the war, what really stands out is just the dedication and total commitment to the country, the Army, their fellow soldiers. The desire to just do their best and not let them down and get back to supporting them despite inconceivable injuries, really,” Bender said. “It's difficult to imagine if you haven't seen it, but the blast injuries from the patrols in Afghanistan (required) amputations, multiple extremity amputations. It's very horrific. But the attitudes and desire to return to normal, the work they put in for recovery is really incredible.”
Because of that mentality, a special kinship is formed between the soldiers dedicated to getting better and the hospital staff committed to improving the lives of their patients, Bender said.
Another reason he stays in the reserves is to be a mentor for young service members. It’s weird being “the old person” now, he said, but the connection is just as strong.
Service is a big motivator in his career, Bender said, and he gets to continue applying it in his work with the Washington Orthopaedic Center, which he sees as an excellent team of professionals providing benefit to the community. He’s been there for three years, and is still settling in.
During active duty, he was at Joint Base Lewis-McChord for two years and loved the area enough to stay.
Growing up in rural Arkansas prepared Bender for the tight-knit community he finds himself a part of while living with his partner and child in Chehalis. His drive to become a hand surgeon also came from a young age.
“I was attracted to the small finesse-type work necessary for restoring hand function,” Bender said. “It is very rewarding to make a difference in people's lives, help them get better sleep at night if they suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome or help them be able to open jars and doors again from arthritic pain.”