One US soldier’s wife told me that even though the war in Iraq was essentially over, that some of the terror groups left deliberately targeted non combat American troops with mortars out of hatred for the good they did.

So the sad news of the Christmas holidays was that Doctor John Pryor, a Combat surgeon on his second tour of duty in Iraq with the US Army Reserve, was killed by a mortar round in Mosul.

His death didn’t get much coverage outside of local papers in Philadelphia and his home town of Albany, of course.  Why should they mention a hero who not only saved American soldiers but actually learned Arabic so he could communicate with Iraqi civilians?

But his home town paper remembered him:

Mount Vernon native John Pryor, for whom flags in New York will fly at half-staff on Monday…. was on his second tour of duty with the Army reserves, in which role he helped piece together so many broken bodies and spirits, allowing for homecomings that might otherwise have been denied….Quoting friends of Pryor’s, the newspaper said the doctor hung a quote from Albert Schweitzer on his office wall: “Seek always to do some good, somewhere. Even if it’s a little thing, do something for those who need help, something for which you get no pay but the privilege of doing it. For remember, you don’t live in a world all your own. Your brothers are here, too.”

In Philadelphia where he practiced at University of Pennsylvania Hospital as a trauma surgeon, he will be mourned by many others: colleagues, friends, and those whose lives he saved: His funeral will be held in Sts Peter and Paul Cathedral rather than his local parish church, so that the thousands wanting to honor him can attend the funeral mass.


You see, Iraq was not the only “war zone” where Dr. Pryor saved lives: he also worked in the inner city wars.
Photo:DAVID M WARREN / Staff Photographer,

I myself worked in the West Philly war zones 40 years ago, when guns started to replace baseball bats and knives in gang wars, and when drugs and drug related crimes were beginning to devastated the neighborhood for all who lived there . Since then, things have gotten worse.

Indeed, Dr. Pryor wrote about this “other war” in a Washington Post editorial, chastising the press for ignoring these stories, because those killed were poor, or minorities, or casualties of the drug trade:

There is a war at home raging every day, filling our trauma centers with so many wounded children that it sometimes makes Baghdad seem like a quiet city in Iowa… Imagine, for a moment, if this (a crack house shooting with seven dead) had occurred in a suburban shopping mall or if a Marine unit in Iraq had been involved. There would be shock, outrage, 24-hour news coverage, Senate hearings and a new color of ribbon to wear. That double standard, that triage of compassion and empathy, is why the war on the streets continues unabated.

Governor Patterson of New York has ordered flags at half on the day of the funeral.

A fund has been established to help Pryor’s wife, Carmela, and their three young children. The address is:

UPHS- Dr. John Pryor Fund,
Suite 750,

3535 Market St.,

Phila., Pa. 19104-3309.


Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the Philippines. Her webpage is Finest Kind Clinic and Fishmarket. She has served in the US Army National Guard, and has a son in law who served in Iraq.

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