In his mind, Lee Von Hack-Prestinary kept circling the crash site.
His friends were in the wreckage below, and he couldn’t help.
The memory brought him to tears.
Seated across from him, at Patrick Air Force Base near Cocoa Beach, a trauma expert watched his body language. She encouraged a drill, coaching him to use the tools she trained him on to unclench while remembering the pain.
It allowed him to accept what he knew consciously — that there was nothing he could have done.
The meeting lasted just 40 minutes.
But Von Hack-Prestinary walked away free of the weight he walked in with.
That’s what his boss, Air Force Lt. Col. Tim Hanks, had hoped for.
• • •
Hanks and his men are pararescue operators with the 308th Rescue Squadron based at Patrick, part of Air Force Reserve Command. They are members of an unsung force of airmen whose rigorous training rivals that of Navy SEALs. Only about 10 percent of those who try make it. Those who do are expert marksmen, parachutists, scuba divers, mountaineers and trauma medics.