US medic wants to honour fallen soldier
His battle to save the life of Special Air Service soldier Corporal Doug Grant in Afghanistan is etched in American medic Stuart Cookson's mind.
Former US Army soldier Cookson, 22, was one of a few medics on the ground when Corporal Grant was shot during an attack at the British Council offices in Kabul on August 19, 2011.
Mr Cookson said the short time he spent trying to save Corporal Grant before he died in a helicopter as he was flown to a military hospital had "stuck" with him.
Mr Cookson intends to visit New Zealand next month to pay his respects on the first anniversary of Corporal Grant's death.
"I treated seven people that day, and Corporal Grant was the only one that died," Mr Cookson said.
"I followed the reports of his death in New Zealand. I don't know why. Something struck a chord with me and I just couldn't let it go."
Mr Cookson says he treated scores of soldiers during his army career, and could remember every soldier who died in his care.
He described the British Council attack as the most intense situation. "That was a 15-hour day. We were getting shot at from everywhere; there was a lot going on."
Corporal Grant, known as Dougie, died while helping to save the lives of three British civilians and two Gurkha security guards. A 41-year-old Linton Military Camp soldier, he is survived by wife Tina and two young children.
Mr Cookson had not met Corporal Grant before the incident, but knew that he had done "something amazing".
Now a fulltime student at the University of South Alabama, Mr Cookson studies history and education. He left the army three months ago, but is still involved part-time.
He said he planned to visit New Zealand between August 15 and 24, and wanted to stop at Linton Military Camp on August 19.
A Defence Force spokesman said there was no formal arrangement between the army and Mr Cookson. His visit appeared to be a personal pilgrimage, which was "really commendable".
"There were a number of people involved military-wise in the evacuation and treatment of Corporal Grant, and I guess he is one of those. And we certainly are very grateful to people like him," the spokesman said.
Mr Cookson was trying to raise money for the trip; family and friends were helping with the cost.
He turned to social news site Reddit for tips on how to raise money for flights and cheap places he could visit during his stay.
Many Kiwis on Reddit had welcomed Mr Cookson, saying there would be 4 million beers waiting for him. "You Kiwis are friendly folk," he said.
Mr Cookson, who joined the army in 2006 and was also deployed in Iraq, had no plans to continue working as a medic.
He had seen enough blood and gore.
"I've just been burned out. If I see somebody hurt, I'm going to help. But I'm not going to put myself somewhere where I have to see it. That part of my life, I feel, has passed."