Dr. – and Lieutenant Colonel – Dave Cabrera, RIP

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LTC David E. Cabrera

I read the names of every U.S. troop killed in action, and every once in awhile there’s a jolt that comes when I recognize one on the list. That’s the case among the four U.S. Army troops killed in that Taliban car bombing Saturday on one of Kabul’s main roads. Among those who perished were Staff Sgt. Christopher R. Newman of Shelby, N.C.; Sgt. James M. Darrough of Austin, Texas; and Sgt. Carlo F. Eugenio, of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. And then there was Dr. (Lt. Col.) David E. Cabrera of Abilene, Texas. “Lt. Col. Cabrera was a soldier’s soldier,” said Navy Capt. (Dr.) Mark Stephens, chairman of the family medicine department at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, the Pentagon’s medical school in Bethesda, Maryland.  “He was professionally happiest when in the field with his troops.” He was an assistant professor of family medicine at the school, as well as a licensed social worker.

I interviewed Dr. Cabrera last year for a piece I did on the Army’s mental-health woes. Like most of the folks involved in this Sisyphean task, he was earnest, hard-working and dedicated. “There have been some absolutely amazing things that have happened in Army mental health,” he told me. He focused on improving soldiers’ resiliency – giving them mental body armor before they shipped out to war, so they could better endure its horrors. Cabrera, 41 when he died, knew the challenge was tough. “We’re humbled and honored to be able to help in the ways that we can,” he said. “But I’ll be completely up front with you — it’s a tough job being a caregiver.”

No kidding.

A toast to you and your work left yet undone, and condolences to your wife and four children.