After Rick left Manchester,he went to Camp Shelby,Mississippi for training before heading over to Kuwait and then Iraq.
For a while, we were not sure where he was. When he sent his first letter home,we discovered from his return address that he was in Ramadi, in the Anbar Province. I had never heard of Ramadi,and knew nothing of it. What I did know I heard from the news. Anbar Province was a hot bed of activity from the insurgents. There was alot of fighting going on there. Of course, Rick never mentioned fighting,in his emails or letters. He did mention that he had "just got back from" a mission or had "a quick chance to write"before a mission. We did have access to emails, but whenever the FOB (forward operating base) was under attack,it would get shut down.
While Rick was there, he tried for and became a member of the Scouts, so he was attached to the Vermont unit.While I would like to say what he did while he was there, and what life was like,I can't. I keep asking Rick," Can I say this? Can I tell them you did that?" And he keeps saying no. This is too much of a public forum. What I can say is, that when Rick was there, it was considered one of the most dangerous places in the world.
Some wives will tell you that they never considered the possibility that their solider wouldn't come home. Though I knew Rick could take care of himself, my mind could not help but go there. I would envision his funeral,and each time it was different.It would be sunny,it would be rainy,I would be the stoic wife,I would throw myself on his coffin in a very dramatic display of grief. I just couldn't help it. Maybe it was my way of preparing myself, I don't know. The military mantra," Pray for the best,prepare for the worst," certainly became more clear to me.
I would see stories about soldiers who had been killed on TV and cry.That actually continued quite awhile after Rick came back. I could certainly place myself in that family. I would think,'There but for the grace of God...."
July2005, Rick had been in Iraq for about 2 months. He was on the FOB when the base sustained an RPG ( rocket propelled grenade) attack. It was not just one,it was several in quick secession,and it happened right where he was walking. When one exploded,he ran,but another one went off where he was running to,then he ran the other direction where a third one went off.
He got lifted off his feet,but cannot remember if he landed on his feet,or got knocked to the ground. He does remember hearing the schrapnel flying all around. He was very lucky-no schrapnel hit him. He did notice months later that sand kept working its way out of his skin,it was so deeply inbedded. After the attack,he noticed nothing unusal,and a few hours later, he was on his way to go out for another mission when he had a searing chest pain,confusion,and the left side of his face dropped. At first, they thought he was suffering a heart attack or stroke,but that was ruled out.(We later learned that facial drop is a symptom of a brain injury.) His heart rate dropped down to extremely low levels,so much so that they evacuated him to Balaad,then to Longstahl Hosptial in Germany.He was in intensive care there for two weeks;there was specualtion that the concussion from the blast had done something to his heart rhythm,since he had no issues before. The Army was in the process of making arrangements to fly me out,when I received word that he was going to be coming home,to Walter Reed on a critical care flight.
After landing in Washington,DC,he was told that Walter Reed was full,so they sent him to Fort Gordon, in Augusta,GA. Once he was there, they determined that we was no longer in critical status,so the military would not fly me to see him. I was quite upset,as you can imagine. Plane tickets were quite expensive,and we did not have that kind of money.I just wanted to see my husband! We were very fortunate that Bea,from our Family Support knew about the Fisher House. The Fisher House is a great non profit organization that helps military families. People donate unused frequent flyer miles and military families use them in cases such as this. I spoke to Rick to see if he wanted me to to fly down,but he said it could be possible for him to fly up,since he was no longer in the hospital and was now in med hold status in the barracks. He would have to clear it. Long story short, it was cleared,and in August he came home for a week's leave. A soon as I saw him,though, I knew that something was wrong. This man was not the man I married.