Veteran tells her story so we can all understand vets’ service

Editor’s note: The letter writer served a 15-month tour with the U.S. Army in the Iraqi Freedom campaign from 2006 to 2008. She was a medic assigned to the 127th MP company, and retired as a staff sergeant in 2013. Staff Sgt. McKay noted that her story is one of many, many experiences veterans have endured along the path of service to the country.

For Veterans Day I would like to share with you one of my experiences as a medic who served 15 consecutive months in a combat zone.

This happened two days after our convoy was hit by an explosive device where several members were injured.

The day is hot, about 115 F, midday as we pull up to an informant’s house, situated around a small courtyard with local national children playing. We are a small contingent of 5 vehicles, one single platoon of about 25 members. Everyone is fully geared with approximately 60 to 100 pounds of full battle gear, ammunition and weapons. I am equipped with extra medical gear and the only medical expertise on sight.

We position our vehicles to scan and cover each sector and provide cover as the leadership enters the building.

I remain inside my vehicle for about five minutes, but it’s really hot inside so I decide to get out and check on those that are in and outside the other vehicles. Double checking that everyone has water and is keeping hydrated, looking for signs of any heat injury, but everyone checks out, I decide to get back in the vehicle even though it is like sitting inside an oven.

Another 10 minutes pass. The children are no longer playing in the courtyard.

As I was looking out my tiny oven window,

A single shot rang out.

Someone yells, “Sgt. Horner is down!!!”

I turn to look through the windshield as he was two vehicles ahead of us, I see him laying flat on the ground.

Instinct tells me to get to him ASAP, but as I step out, my driver pushes me back in and tells me to wait, he will pull up alongside to provide cover (he saved my life in that moment.)

We get to SGT Horner, he is unresponsive, I start evaluating his vitals, he is gone. His eyes are red, pupils dilated, blood still pumping from the gunshot wound just above his sternum.

I try to suppress the bleeding, maybe we can save him I think to myself,

Then a second shot rings out.

It ricochets off the ground in between me and my driver.

The squad then starts to return fire, but I can’t tell who is shooting or where it is coming from, I am hard focused on SGT Horner, but he is gone, and I cannot save him. I do not want to accept that fact and I try to treat his wounds, the order is given to evac the area and get him into a vehicle.

SGT Horner is 6’4”, about 220 pounds of dead weight. We don’t have an ambulance, we have to get him into the back door of an uparmored Humvee as we are being fired upon by an unknown number of combatants from an unknown direction.

It seemed to take forever, but we were able to extract and get back to the base, with SGT Horner’s body.

I remember how it smelled, like copper, sweat and burning plastic. Emotionally disconnected as I had just spoken to him 10 minutes prior. Feeling like a failure because I was unable to save him. Heart pounding as it tries to regulate the adrenaline coursing through my veins. Hands shaking as the emotions get turned back on…

That was June 1, 2007, and it comes back to me in full spectrum vision and feeling anytime I hear unexpected close proximity firearm discharge, fireworks or the like.

I share this story so that those who are unaware might become aware of how much veterans sacrifice for you to be able to live the life you want. Think about that when you are enjoying your “freedoms” and perhaps consider those around you when you do. Not everyone enjoys hearing your firearm practice on a beautiful sunny afternoon.

The best way to say thank you to the men and women who served is by showing some consideration and understanding, and as a veteran, that would be the best thank you I could ever get.

Michaelyn McKay



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