Letter from a reservist

Posted: Sep 20, 2002 12:00 AM
Thousands of letters stream into my mailbox each month. Here is one of the gems of the year, reprinted with permission from Lynn Nicolai. God bless all our men and women in uniform, active-duty and (END ITAL) reserve: I am an active drilling Navy Reserve Nurse Corps Officer, a CDR (commander), attached to a Naval Hospital Unit. I just transferred from a Marine Reserve Squadron, where I was a member of the medical team. Serving with and for the Marines has been the best duty I've had in my 23-year career (part active and part reserve). My Marines are the most devoted and dedicated souls I have ever known. There are no truer words than "Semper Fi" and "We leave no man behind." The people of this country should know the level of loyalty and compassion and skill of the medical team members that go with their treasured sons, daughters, fathers and mothers into the battle zone -- or right onto the battle field (as the corpsmen and chaplains do). And they should be glad that we do it, that we are willing to do it, that we want to do it. And, obviously, it isn't just the Marines and Sailors. I have friends in the Army, Air Force and Air National Guard, all of whom share the same loyalty and desire. You would probably be surprised at the number of people who are astonished when I tell them what I do. I am a single mom. I have a 13-year-old son. I work in my civilian job as a pediatric office nurse manager. I am very busy in my civilian life. I do my reserve work one weekend a month and 2 weeks (sometimes more) during the summer. When I tell people what I do, the response is usually, "Well aren't you afraid to get called up?" Or: "You wouldn't want to go, would you?" I am always torn in my response. Yes, I'm afraid, but yes, I would want to go with my troops. We are all split, my military friends and I, between devotion to family and devotion to duty. Duty usually wins. Where my fellow Sailors and Marines go, I want to go, too. I could leave my son safely in the care of grandparents or his father, and not worry about him. I would miss him terribly, but my worry would be whether I would safely return and when I would return. However, if called up, I'd go in a New York minute. That's where my heart is. That's where the hearts of my unit are. There is a bond among military people, a cohesiveness that cannot be explained. You have to experience it to get the true meaning, the real depth, of the friendships formed and the loyalties created by that bond. I served in Desert Storm in '91 with a Fleet Hospital group sent to the desert outside the port of Al Jubail, Saudi Arabia. We were a battle zone tent hospital, 80 miles back from the borders of Kuwait. It was a 500-bed tent hospital, 1,200 reservists in all, running every phase of what it takes to run a large hospital like that. It was the most amazing thing I have ever seen and the best experience of my life. After the September 11th attacks, I can't tell you the number of my friends, including myself, that picked up phones to Washington, D.C., calling detailers, calling the Nurse Corps main offices, volunteering to go anywhere they needed nurses to go: to the hospital ships, the port of NYC, and later, to Afghanistan and beyond. "Take me," they said. "If we're needed, we'll go." We are required, as reservists, to always have things in order, financially and otherwise, to be able to leave on very short notice. It keeps a person organized, and very aware of how precious time with loved ones is. You never know when that will end. And that's true of life in general, anyway. For those who have had to defend it, liberty has a flavor the protected will never know.