A Sailor Reflects on Afghanistan Deployment...
By Lt. Holly Lee, MSC, Bureau of Medicine and Surgery
What should you feel when someone you’ve never met dies unexpectedly at the hands of the enemy? Logic tells me that there is no reason to feel anything different than I do when I hear of death on the nightly news. But my heart aches and tears fill my eyes despite what logic directs. I’ve never met her and yet I feel attached. She is a young Naval Medical Service Corps Officer just like me; she is a mother just like me; she is a wife just like me; she is a daughter just like me.
I have only been here maybe a month and I sit and listen to the tragic details of her last moments on this earth and darkness surrounds me. Why her, why now? There are no answers and that is the biggest frustration. It was a random act during war. Suddenly reality overwhelms me and I realize there is no escape; randomness is my enemy. I am here in Afghanistan and every moment of every day there is a chance I will die at the hands of someone who considers themselves my enemy. It’s true I volunteered to come and serve. I knew the circumstances but for me, like most Americans, the randomness of war was not something I considered to be the ultimate enemy.
I push the overwhelming urge to cry out of my mind and focus on the mission. I left my children to be here so I must make the most of this opportunity. I work tirelessly and still think of my fallen Naval Officer daily. I fill my heart and mind with the concept that if I can just be an ambassador of America’s Good Will that the future Afghan generations will remember that and hold onto it as they grow their nation. I realize that in comparison to our Sailors and Marines on the front line that this personal mission pales in comparison to one minute of their daily acts of heroism. Despite its size, this small act is all I have that is within my control.
On my good days I am successful with my personal mission. On my bad days I am overwhelmed with doubt. Doubt that I will make a difference, doubt that we are doing the right thing, doubt that I will make it out of here alive. On my very worse days we lose another member of our small community or we are shook to the core by an enemy’s bomb. No matter what my plan is for the day the reality is that randomness may attack anywhere at any time and that is wearing on my soul.
Some days are longer than others and obviously some are more significant. I remember the day that I heard a child’s laugh from an open window in the local hospital. It was odd to hear this little ray of sunshine dance through my heart; I hadn’t held my sons for many months. I also remember the day my neighbor was attacked and killed during a routine convoy. I remember watching as other women inventoried and packed her teddy bear into a storage box for his final trip home. A trip he had to make without her. I remember my final flight out of Afghanistan. This was a somewhat happy occasion until reality crept in. Our flight was going to be delayed because we were waiting on a fallen Marine to arrive and accompany us home. I remember standing on the flight line saluting him as his remains passed by during the middle of the night… a true hero was amongst us.
I am just an average deployer. I went, stood the watch and returned. But the sacrifices of my shipmates and the moments I experienced have forever impacted my life and my heart. I came home without the loss of a limb and without seeing a truly gruesome scene but I am different. I am stronger.
I have a new mission these days…never to forget the great strength I have gained and the beautiful life I have been given because too many have sacrificed for it.