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There I was...: Of angels and heroes who kept us safe

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Angelo Mejia
  • 6th Aeromedical Squadron bioenvironmental engineering technician
There I was taking my first step off of a C-17, arriving in a foreign land. I felt from that point on that my life would never be the same.

I saw, I heard, I ran to and hid what I had grown accustomed to during that temporary life. During most nights as I lay in my bed in my wooden room in Bagram, Afghanistan, I had thoughts about the heroes outside the wire -- those heroes who stayed up all night bunkered in their sandbag forts, the heroes within those 4-wheel mammoths who roam the perimeter, and those heroes inside winged guardians in the skies. My utmost respect will forever be given to you. You kept us inside-the-wire tenants as safe as possible.

As some of you know, you are never really safe in a war zone. I was awakened some nights by large explosions or a giant voice saying, "incoming... incoming... incoming." I knew my life was endangered. It was during these tense moments that I finally found God in my life again. Hearing the wailing sirens across the base, a few red flares slowly lighting up the skies, I do recall praying to God to protect us, but not once did I ask angels to save us. I truly believe in angels, I just never would have thought they roamed around at Craig Joint Theater Hospital.

Craig Joint Theater Hospital is definitely very busy during the summer months. Insurgent attacks usually ramp up during the warmer days. As I woke up every morning, I always wondered if I would ever see the aftermath of war.

One August morning, while driving with two of my peers to investigate an indoor air quality complaint, each of our pagers went off at the same time. The message read "all available manpower, report to your duty section." We made some phone calls as we made our way back to the hospital and we found out one of our forward operating bases had gotten hit by a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device. The moment we got out of our vehicle, we all went toward the back door of the emergency department to find out what was going on.

What I saw when we entered was like watching a movie in slow motion. The dark hallway toward the main emergency department room was busy with people scrambling from left to right, casualties on litters and beds, small pools of blood, and the wounded wrapped in towels.

That day, the realities of war hit me. However, angels did show up in full force. The doctors, surgeons, nurses, medical technicians, medevac personnel and manpower volunteers were working as one team. I watched firsthand as these personnel worked to save the lives of the young and old, our U.S. service brothers and sisters, our allied services and the civilian community. Even our enemies, these insurgents who are compelled to hurt us, were treated with care.

Watching this unfold with my own eyes has humbled me. I admire the spirit of the heroes who save the lives of others. It was truly a privilege to work alongside them.

As I boarded the plane to leave my deployed location, I knew my life had definitely changed. The tales I heard of the heroes outside the wire, the stories I had been told from those who were injured, the angels who saved lives, and the things I witnessed myself are memories I will treasure.

I arrived back in the U.S. and walked out toward my family. I embraced my loved ones with tears of joy and thought, "Truly, what greater feeling in life could you ask for?"