George “Mik” Todd’s job in Afghanistan was to stay alive and keep his Marines alive.
“It was a kinetic and violent deployment. The conditions were pretty austere,” Todd said. “My roommate was killed on the first day. … It shook us pretty bad.”
He got his second nickname, “Doc,” serving as a Navy corpsman, essentially a combat medic, for the 2nd Battalion 8th Marines in Helmand province in 2009.
“Over there, we were just worried about water, survival, ammunition, food and God,” Todd said.
His job was to assist with trauma and injuries on the battlefield. In the end, it was Todd who needed help.
He contracted bilateral atypical pneumonia, which is pneumonia in both lungs. He said he knew he was in trouble when he was wrapping up a blast site.
“They had to drag me the last 1,500 to 2,000 yards. I was falling in and out of consciousness. I got back to base, and they ran my rectal temp. It was 105.7,” he recalled. “I had black spots all over my body. I lost a considerable amount of weight.”
Despite all this, he got back on his feet and started working again.
“I was there for another week, and then one of the battalion surgeons came up to me and said, ‘Doc, we’ve got to get you out of here.’ ”
Todd was ultimately sent to a hospital in Germany.
“I could feel (the pneumonia) shutting my respiratory system down,” he said. “I was really close to dying.”
Life after war
After he recovered and moved to Atlanta, Todd had a hard time adjusting to civilian life.
“I tell my friends all the time, I’d rather got shot because that’s more heroic,” he said. “It’s like now there’s an asterisk on my deployment. It took me a long time to stand up from that.”
Todd struggled with depression and anxiety and turned to alcohol to deal with the pain.
“I haven’t been formally diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder,” he said. “There’s a strong possibility that I have some level of it.”
Eventually, Todd received help from two doctors in Atlanta. Then he went back to school to study economics and public policy at Georgia State University.
“I thought school was a really important part of my transition. I started building a career in wealth management.”
But after a client died, Todd had a change of heart.
“I went to Philadelphia for the funeral, and then we’ve buried so many friends to whether it be suicide, substance abuse, addiction,” he said. “I really just had enough.”
Making music to help others
Todd grew up freestyling and rapping in Memphis, Tennessee, and music was a big part of his life until he joined the Navy.
“It was just time for me to be who I am,” he said. “And live the life that I was called to live.”
With savings from his job in wealth management and help from his wife, Todd quit his job to focus on his true passion: music.
Now he hopes to use his voice to help veterans heal. He wrote and performed the album “Combat Medicine” under the name Doc Todd.
“I was in combat medicine as my profession. The album itself is intended to be medicine for people who have served in combat,” he said. “It’s about the transition and dealing with war … and standing up and trying to get back on your feet again.”
The song “Not Alone” is aimed at veteran suicide.
“You don’t have to isolate yourself. No matter what your story is or what you went through on deployment, there’s somebody out there who has a similar story,” he said. “We’re letting people know that there’s people on the other side of this fight and that you can make it through.”
Another song on the album “Never Get ‘Em Back” deals with survivor’s guilt. The first verse is about Todd’s roommate who was killed in action in Afghanistan.
“It’s something that a lot of military personnel deal with,” he said. “One of the things I want to tell them is, there’s nothing you can do that’s ever going to bring that person back. And it’s not your fault.”
Todd is also writing a memoir called “Combat Medicine” that he hopes will be released around Veterans Day.
“My job is still to save military lives. It’s just the platform is different.”