It's a grim but familiar task for this military town: When American blood is shed overseas, the broken bodies are brought here for healing.
Not long after the fighting began in Panama, planes began arriving with wounded soldiers destined for San Antonio's military hospitals.On Wednesday and Thursday, four transport planes from Panama landed at Kelly Air Force Base carrying 191 soldiers, along with four men who died en route or shortly after arrival.
"This is kind of a way of life for us," said Caryl Hill, executive director of the local United Service Organizations.
The city known for the Alamo is home to four Air Force bases and an Army post. Brooke Army Medical Center is the nation's premier burn unit, and Wilford Hall Medical Center is one of the nation's main military hospitals.
Immediately after the wounded come the worried and grieving relatives. A reception center for families was set up at Fort Sam Houston. Housing was arranged for the families, and several San Antonio hotels offered complimentary or discounted rooms.
Wilford Hall received numerous calls from people offering to donate blood, house families of the wounded or provide other aid, but no blood was needed and the military was making housing arrangements for families, said Lt. Col. Johnny Whitaker of Lackland Air Force Base.
Doctors and nurses worked extra shifts and postponed vacations to handle the casualties, he said.
"There's a lot of tired people. These have been long days. People seem to be fairly upbeat, holding their own," he said.
Richard and Linda Turner of DeSoto, Texas, were some of the first parents to arrive. They visited their son, Pvt. Richard Turner Jr., who suffered a concussion when a bullet grazed his helmet.
"He saw one of his friends killed," Mrs. Turner said. "He cried quite a bit."
Military officials said medical procedures were running smoothly, the soldiers were in good spirits and many of them are cleared to return to their units.