A Pediatric Nurse In A Combat World: Part 1
August 6th started like any other day. I was sitting at my desk at work when my cell phone rang. I recognized the number at Fort Dix and instantly knew what was about to happen.
“Lieutenant Leone, this is Chief Hodge, how are you?”
“I’m fine. Where am I going?” I answered, determined to cut through the niceties and get the needed information.
“LT, you’ve been tagged for mobilization. Your ready-load date is February 20th. We’re not exactly sure where you are going, but based on your ready-load date, it’s the Role 3 at KAF (Kandahar Airfield).”
I wish I could say the rest of the day was a blur. My co-workers are the first to hear the news. Then I called my friend Lauren. She was back from a recent mobilization to Guantanamo Bay and helped me start to process the information. I had six months to prepare for the biggest adventure of my life.
“Oh, no!” I thought. I had to tell my family. How was I supposed to tell my child I was leaving for eight months into a combat zone? And my parents? It was almost impossible. Tears and a thousand questions followed. Eventually, the idea settled, and we all began to prepare together. It would take the next six months to get everything done. Once I thought I had everything under control, something else needed to be added to the list for work, military, or personal.
The next several months went by quickly. I had two piles of stuff, one of which I needed to pack and bring with me; the other was items I needed to mail ahead to Kandahar: sheets, pillows, and personal items to make myself and my room more comfortable. “Comfortable” …it sounded wild. I was about to be 7000 miles from home on a military base in a third-world country, away from my entire life.
Friday, February 20th, I reported to Fort Dix. I checked in with several departments to ensure I was all squared away with paperwork/medical information and met with the commanding officer. After two hours and a few signatures, I was released to my home to enjoy my last couple of days with my family, and time seemed to fly that weekend. My flight to Norfolk, Virginia, was that Sunday evening.
My mother, son, and fiancé were going to drive me to the airport. As we loaded my seabags into the car, my son started to cry, and I called his father to pick him up. I wasn’t prepared for this reaction. I hugged and kissed him before he left, told him I loved him, and promised to text or Skype as often as possible. Then, we headed off to Philadelphia International Airport. The bags were unloaded, and we said some quick goodbyes before I was off. I didn’t look back as the first leg of my journey had officially begun.
The preceding writing is part 1 of a 6-part series detailing the highlights of a deployment to Afghanistan.
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