Meet the combat medics who came to treat COVID-19 in New York City

“Nightline” speaks to four medics who came to New York City to serve on a different kind of battle field, one in which they helped treat thousands of COVID-19 hospitalizations.
10:36 | 07/04/20

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Transcript for Meet the combat medics who came to treat COVID-19 in New York City
window of my hotel. The empire state building, getting ready for another day. I have 27 years of service. I've been on four deployments, all of them medical missions. Colonel Edward Ramirez never expected his next deployment to take him here, to New York City, in what became the front line of the nation's covid-19 response. Here we are at Lincoln hospital. It's not missiles or bombs, but the threat to life is just as much, if not more. Just back from a month's long deployment in Kuwait, he kissed his family good-bye and boarded a cross-country flight, reporting for duty in the hard-hit bronx. Going to take this here and make a head covering. The difference for us is when you're a physician, you're not on the very front of the war. Here, we're the infantry. As cases skyrocket through the country, currently at least 38 states seeing an upward trend in cases, tonight we meet four heros in uniform who answered the call for the city in crisis. You know you're putting your life on the line. That's what we do, ma'am. Combat medics deployed the epicenter of a new kind of war. Nothing truly prepared us for what we came here for. Now carrying the scars of a hard-fought battle. Ready and willing to answer the call of duty yet again. I think I was expecting that we could walk in and be able to fix everyone. We couldn't. New York's first case of coronavirus affected a 39-year-old health care worker. Officials say the threat of coronavirus remains low. They have told Americans to get ready for the unknown. And to expect dozens and dozens more cases. It's impossible to imagine how quickly this moved. Our hospitals could be overwhelmed in a matter of weeks. The last 24 hours have been very, very sobering. As the days ticked forward and numbers climbed, mayor de Blasio made an urgent call. We are two weeks or three weeks from running out of the supplies we need most. More than 1200. Time now for a state of emergency in New York City. This has been like war. You either had to find a way to survive, or you would be overrun. And we were talking about people's lives. And so how did you call for reenforcements? How do you literally call in the cavalry? I said we are literally running out of people. And we turned to the military medical personnel on duty right now, all over the country and bring them to the front, to the epicenter, New York City, can we do that? Within weeks, the federal government working with the state would send thousands of troops to New York City. The army corps of engineers will build makeshift hospitals at four locations, including the javits center in Manhattan. All of this to help alleviate the strain on hospitals in the city treating coronavirus. What was it like getting that deployment call? Well, at the time I got it I was actually getting my hair done. My commander was like, I need you tomorrow. At home in Texas, major Angela Murphy sprang into action. I was calling my parents, do you have my power of attorney? If something happens I want to make sure everything is squared away. You actually thought you night not make it back? Right. We going to New York City. We'd already heard reports. Like health care workers dying. This deployment a world apart from her last mission at bagram air force base in Afghanistan. Were you more nervous about going to Afghanistan or to the hot zone of New York? With bagram I got six months of prep time. Here we had like 16 hours. And then we were there. They're now on average a dozen coronavirus deaths every hour in New York. More than 1500 new yorkers dying from the virus alone. A huge surge in infections. I've been in New York City before. The minute we got in there, there was no traffic. It was kind of eerie. It was kind of weird. Major Murphy was deployed to the emergency department at Lincoln hospital in the bronx. This Burrough home to the highest number of infections. It hit when we were at Lincoln, just to see the amount of critically ill patients. Rooms turned into icu beds. There was like back to back to back. Compared to bagram, it sounds like it was a mass casualty event 24/7, seven days a week. Correct. Every moment of every shift, every day for weeks. It's overwhelming. Sometimes you just want to duck off and like cry. But you know you can't do that right now, because you have other things, you know, to do. And so. And so you soldier on. Right. Just a few miles away in queens, major Esther burns and Thomas shew were dispatched to elmhurst hospital. Early on, one of the hardest-hit areas in the city. We're here to help relieve their staff, who had been on it since, you know, the very beginning. I love y'all! I really do. When we got to the hospital the first day, we had a meeting with administration. There was literally shouting in the room from excitement and joy about what we were bringing to the table. Hi, mama. But for major cleggs burns, the call to duty meant leaving home two daughters and her husband in Alabama. My baby, she's 1, so she doesn't even realize I'm gone. Hey, girl. My oldest, she's 6, so she's having a little more difficult time. Give me sugar. I don't think military spouses get the credit that they deserve. My husband can't go to work. Because child care is closed. School is closed. He's at home, taking care of our girls. My husband, he is a rock in it. Say bubba. Bubba. Elmhurst, I got my team in front of me. With 28 years in the Navy under his belt, commander Suh has provided care around the globe. But the front line of covid, he says, was entirely different. If you were injured on the field or had a combat injury we could get you to medical care within that golden hour you had a 96% survival rate. That really is different here. When you're intubated, the mortality rates kind of skyrocket. By the end of April. You are in fact on the downside of the mountain. The curve appeared to be flattening. Hospitalization rate is down. The number of intubations -- The situation in New York appeared to be stabilizing. 21 days of hell. But we're back to where we were. The worst-hit hospitals were finally seeing fewer patients. But what remained? A grateful city. Those cheers for front line workers still echoed each night at 7:00 P.M. It's an incredible thing to hear how appreciative everybody is. Yesterday was the last day in the hospital at Lincoln. My clinic gave me an applause. Which is from the heart. I'm so happy you are all headed home! And as quickly as they arrived, it became time to leave. Before departing, major Murphy and a few dozen others honored at a special ceremony at Lincoln hospital. We're a better hospital because of it. The toll in the U.S. Now more than 130,000. A list of names that has continued to grow since this may "New York Times" cover. I bought the paper the day before I left so I would have And did you look through the names? I wouldn't look through the names. I didn't want to see a name I recognized. One day I'll pick it up and maybe I'll read it or maybe I'll just keep it how it is. If there were a second wave, would you answer the call again? Yes, I would. I couldn't not, you know what I mean? Like I, it's just too hard for me to say no when your country needs you. And for colonel Ramirez? After so many deployments and so many months away in the past year, this return home is an opportunity to make up for lost time. I missed my wife's birthday, Thanksgiving, Christmas, new year's, I missed all the important days of our life, so to speak. When colonel Ramirez finally returned home to California, there to greet him, his wife of 35 years. You made it! And like a truly dedicated husband, he managed to bring flowers all the way from new York. This was what I wanted to be in the military for. To be of service to my country. I know that if I had not deployed I would have regretted

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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