No Ordinary Day

Ortiz_No_Ordinary_Day“Greater love has no one than this; that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15: 12-14)

[May 30th, 2011] On a surprisingly pleasant morning in Camp Adder, the 883rd COSC team is climbing the stairs of our clinic to get to the roof. Memorial Day is being observed today and the first order of business is to fly about 20 flags in honor of all the US soldiers that bravely gave their lives to conserve the ideal of freedom.

Our Officer in Charge (OIC) conceived this idea with the intent of sending the flags along with a certificate of appreciation to those who supported us during our mission. Unbeknownst to him this would be one of the days that stay with me to this very moment because it was on that day where I realized that my purpose in life was to be able to help soldiers on a much bigger platform.

Deployments usually turn into “ground hog days” and after several years go by, there are not many days in particular that stand out. This of course was far from being an ordinary day. It was Memorial Day. For some it’s a day that is synonymous to 4-day weekends and backyard barbecues but for those who have military affiliations it has a different sentiment. A day like this one opens deep wounds to the thousands of families that have had to endure the loss of a loved one in battle. This day touches the soul of the many men and women who have had to stare at a Fallen Soldier Battle Cross while listening to a Last Roll Call. Although I have never directly taken part of a ceremony of that nature, I have assisted in Critical Event Debriefings (also known as TEMs) with my team. Whenever a traumatic event occurred, our job as a Combat Stress Unit was to visit the soldiers to provide support during these difficult moments. It was important to try to restore unit cohesion so that these guys could be effective for their next missions. During those sessions I witnessed many soldiers go through an avalanche of unprocessed feelings and wondered how challenging it was going to be for them to move on from these devastating events. Not only did we want to prevent short term and physical distress, we wanted them to be able to go home and be effective with their families as well.

5 years have passed since that day and I am still helping those service members process those feelings in every which way I can. I have done it through classes, through my writings, through therapy sessions and overall patriotic support. It’s very hard to imagine that every soldier that passed before us had the intent to be a symbol of pride for the many others that would take their place, but they have achieved that and so much more. When I wonder why I chose the path I did, that moment of doubt disappears when I replay the image of those flags waving underneath that scorching sun. The sense of pride that goes with wearing the same uniform that many wore while they took their final breath is all I need to continue to give my all for the friends and families that they left behind.