[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/05/25/vert.keith.heidtman.jpg caption="1LT Keith Heidtman" width=292 height=320]
1LT Rose MacHarg
566 Medical Company (AS) Executive Officer
Serving in Iraq at Camp Liberty, near Baghdad
Memorial Day was never too significant to me until my unit began its train-up to go to Iraq. Sure, I had family members who had fought in past conflicts and had taken my share of history courses in school. Even though I had completed 4 years of Army ROTC and 2 years of active duty, I never quite grasped the significance of it until the days after Memorial Day of 2007.
It was May 30 2007 and I was running weekend errands. On a whim, I stopped to get a quick haircut. As I was waiting, I happened to glance at the TV and CNN was on. I watched the featured story for a few minutes, lost interest and started to look away. All of a sudden the screen segued to faces of Soldiers with a caption of “Fallen Soldiers.”
The first face was a shock to me.
It was 1LT Keith Heidtman. Keith had been in my squad during a 5-week training camp for ROTC cadets at Ft. Lewis, WA in 2004. I recognized him immediately. The caption said that his helicopter was shot down by enemy fire over Baghdad on 28 May, 2007—Memorial Day. His co-pilot was killed was well. Ground teams were sent to the scene and those 6 Soldiers were killed by IEDs in their attempt to rescue them.
I felt the terrible feeling of realization that the fun and games of college and ROTC were over. The light-heartedness we had at Ft. Lewis during those 5 weeks of training left no indication for what really lay in store for him. I remember his determination to become a pilot, and his quiet yet self-assured ways and his willingness to help me and others in the squad when we needed it.
In the Army, there are so many training events where you quickly bond with people during a very short, yet intense period of time, then need to part ways almost as fast as training began. Everyone says how the Army is a small place, so it’s always a great surprise to see old friends and battle buddies at duty stations or overseas. It deeply saddened me that that was the way in which I saw Keith again.
After that, the reality of what we were doing became much more tangible. The fact that he lost his life on Memorial Day has given me an entirely new appreciation for the sacrifices so many people have made, and how each life affects so many others. On 26 May, 2008, I will be remembering Keith and all the other Soldiers from past and present conflicts who have accepted the immense risk of serving, realizing the great cost that could come, but who do it anyway.
Read more about 1LT Keith Heidtman here...
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