Erik Nott wishes he were better with adjectives.
If he were, the Air Force major and orthopedic surgeon might be able to better describe how he felt about being feted in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday night as he and four others received Heroes of Military Medicine awards from the Henry M. Jackson Foundation. It’s an honor usually reserved for lifetime achievements by military leaders — the commandant of the Marines Corps was honored Wednesday night — and high-ranking politicians involved in the advancement of military medicine.
“Major Nott put himself in harm’s way to save the lives of our troops,” John Lowe, president and CEO of the Henry M. Jackson Foundation, said before Wednesday night’s event. “He and the other award recipients have shown uncommon valor, devotion to duty and unwavering dedication to helping others.”
Nott, a graduate of Wichita Northwest, Friends University and the University of Kansas School of Medicine, is a surgeon at St. Louis University Hospital, where he also teaches classes. He attended the awards with his wife, Jill, parents, Dick and Carol Nott, both of Wichita, and his older brother, Jamie. The couple have four young children who stayed home with Jill’s parents.
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“The whole experience has been … humbling,” Erik Nott said. “To be in this great city, with all the history here is really incredible. I wish I could describe it better, I really do. I’m honored.”
Nott is part of an elite, eight-person Air Force medical operations unit. He and his medical colleagues were attacked by Taliban forces in Afghanistan last May. Shot in the leg during the attack, Nott refused to leave his team and continued to care for his patients. He received a Purple Heart last November.
"I didn’t want to leave and disrupt the team," said Nott, who joined the Air Force in 1998 after graduating from Friends. "The doctors numbed it with Lidocaine, stitched it up, covered it and I kept it clean. I just kept doing my thing."
While in Afghanistan, Nott reconstructed the thumb of a local interpreter, which restored the man’s ability to write. In another instance he performed a surgery that allowed a patient to keep his foot, which would have otherwise been amputated.
Nott and his colleagues spent most of the day before the Taliban attack cleaning the wounds of a badly-burned, 18-month-old girl from one of the nearby villages.
Nott’s squadron and flight commanders nominated him for Wednesday’s award.
An All-State basketball player at Northwest and an All-KCAC pick at Friends, Nott singled out several Wichitans who influenced him growing up, giving them credit for teaching him teamwork at an early age.
“A big part of military service is having focus, concentration and commitment to a goal, as a team,” Nott said. “And I had a lot of good mentors growing up in (former Northwest coaches) Charles Williams, Mike Burrell, Tim Seguine and Mike Schartz that gave me that strong sense of self-discipline and teamwork that’s been key to any success I’ve had.
“They were people who let me know early on that athletics was a way I could get an education. They were always focused on helping me become a better person and making sure I was working hard … I can’t say enough about what they did for me.”
Tuesday, Nott took a trip to Arlington National Cemetery.
“I really want to take our kids (to Arlington) someday,” Nott said. “To see the rows and rows of white tombstones and think about how many people have died for their country, to think about that sacrifice … like I said, I wish I were better with adjectives.”