• Liz Baker

Why I take the time to remember....

Today I was sitting in an elementary school Veteran's Day assembly thinking about why it is so important that we take time to remember those that fought for freedom - not just during times of war but also all those that volunteer to be ready when the time does come. Up on the stage there were maybe 20 veterans that served at various times since the Korean War in 1950. I have always had a deep respect for the armed forces and I hope that I can pass that on to my own kids without them having to see war first hand. A part of the assembly included a personal account of one veteran's experience while serving in the military as a combat medic. Her name is Ally John's but while serving she was called Staff Sergeant D’amaso. I feel so blessed that I was able to hear her story first hand. It was so humbling to find out how much courage it actually takes to do what our service men and women do to ensure our safety and freedom. She was kind enough to let me have a copy of her speech and share it with you. I hope you take the time to read it and understand how much opposition she had to go through to come home alive - from both the enemy and those who were suppose to protect her the most. There aren't enough words to describe how grateful I am to have grown up in Canada and now raise my own family in The United States. Please remember that our freedom was not/is not free. Someone had to pay the price for it and continue to pay for it - so next time you see a veteran or active service man or women - say thank you and take a moment to remember what you have was made possible by what they sacrificed.

This is me, my five kids, and Staff Sergeant D’amaso. She is a hero and I am so happy we got to meet her!!

Good Morning and thank you all for taking the time to be here in support of our wonderful military, past, present, and future.

I am honored and privileged to be asked to speak again. If you haven’t seen or met me yet, my name is Ally Johns, formerly known as Staff Sergeant D’amaso. I am the tech specialist assigned here at Centerville Elementary. I served 8 years active as a combat and flight medic, then reclassed to military police. When I am not on contract time with Davis School District, I am either training or deploying with a private sector out of Ft. Bragg, NC, either once or twice a year. Last year I spoke about my best friend and his ultimate sacrifice to our country. This year I would like to speak a little about some of the personal courage it takes to protect the rights and freedoms that we have as Americans by sharing a personal story about one of my toughest deployments.

Now I grew up knowing that I wanted to save lives and being a combat and flight medic pushed me to those limits. A month and 10 days before my 20th birthday, I had convinced myself to accept the harsh reality that I may not live to see another day, a moment that many of us might have faced during our deployments. I would be leaving behind a then 4-month-old baby and her father to raise her on his own. I had just returned a month ago from escorting my best friend home and serving on his funeral detail. My moral was at an all time low, I started doubting myself, my purpose as an american soldier, doubting and questioning the wars we were fighting and the leaders we were supporting another moment that many of us has faced while being enlisted in the military, or are currently facing while still serving. My mental, emotional, and physical health were diminishing, on top of that I was treated unfairly by my 1st Sgt because I was the only female out of my small platoon of 20. Some of the examples of unfair treatment were when we first arrived to COP Keating, there were a set of 10 bunk beds, and he told all the male soldiers, that if they were caught sharing a set of bunk beds with me, they would be written up. My Platoon then came up with a solution stating to the first sergeant that I was their medic, and if anyone needed to be well rested, it should be me, so two of them took turns rotating out every night to sleep on the floor, so I can have a set of bunk beds all to myself. His response was “i will not be giving up my bed for her, so you can count me out of that rotation.” There was another day where we were out on foot patrol and had to take refuge in an old devastated building that was falling apart, we were there for 17 days. A few of the guys gave up some of their drinking water so I could wash myself down, and my 1st sgts response was, I would not give a drop of sweat off my body if her life depended on it. Now I am not bringing these statements up to bash him or make him look like the bad guy, but I did need to bring up this small snippet of my deployment in order to support the story of the day that changed my life forever.

It was October 3, 2009, and I was deployed with the 10th combat aviation brigade in Kamdesh, Afghanistan as a Combat/ Flight Medic.

On a weekly routine, the flight medics would take turns rotating out between three bases. Observation post Fritsche, Combat Operating Post Keating, and Forward operating base Bostick. I had just finished my rotation out of COP Keating and was back at OP Fritsche. It was around 545AM when we got word of an imminent attack, nothing too out of the blue for us, but not a position we wanted to be in. When the attack had happened, it ended up isolating all three posts from each other, we no longer had the resources, fighting power, or back up that we needed in order to support each other. This made our day go from bad to worse possible situation we could ever be in, and to make things even worse. 48 minutes into what turned into a 13-hour fight for our lives, COP Keating, one of our combat posts, was overtaken by the enemies.

I can't go into all the details of this day because a 13 hr battle is a lot to cover in a short amount of time, but I can go over the personal moments that led up to this photo. My 1st Sgt and I were huddled behind a perimeter wall that was constructed out of sand bags stacked 4 feet tall. And as a soldier was running to engage in enemy fire, he ended up getting hurt. My 1st Sgt looked at me and said, “You’re going to go get him!” Thinking about the current situation we were in and how I was the only medic they had, my response was, “I’m sorry, but that is not something I can do right now, there are a lot more people who are relying on me, right now is not the time to recover him.” I then felt my 1st Sgt pick me up and throw me over the sandbags and say, “You better go get him.” Being fully vulnerable in the position I was forced in, I ran over to one of the armored vehicles, removed the detachable door and ran over to that soldier. When I got there, I quickly assessed his injuries and was glad to see that he was okay. I quickly set his rifle in his hand, through the door on top of him to cover him. As I started to pull on his vest, I felt a sharp sting rip right underneath my vest, I then had to switch hands that I was pulling with, so I could stop the bleeding on my abdomen. As I had turned to switch hands, I then felt the sharp sting again hitting right below my armpit on the opposite side. As both sides of my body were hurt, I took the chance of using both hands to pull in hopes that I would have more strength with speed. As I started getting some distance, I then felt a sharp sting hit my leg, sending me down on the ground. I was then pulling the wait of both our bodies as I scooted across the dessert using one leg to push off and two hands to hold onto my soldier. I remember tears coming down my face as I remembered all the reasons why I needed to make it through this day, my family, my country, the soldiers back at the post fighting for their lives screaming we need a medic, and for the soldier whose life was literally hanging in my hands. I couldn’t let my country down, I couldn’t let our families down, so I prayed for the moment to come when I finally felt the stack of sandbags hit my back and my soldiers pick us up and over. Unfortunately as a medic, we usually treat others before we treat ourselves, but I knew that I needed to get help quick, so as I was helping treat this wounded soldier, I was giving instructions for a soldier to pack and dress my wounds. My 1st Sgt then stated, “I will not be touching her.” After we were all patched up, we were back in the game. Unfortunately, all air support attempts that were made or called for to FOB Bostick, had been cancelled or unaccomplished because of how hostile our environment was, we could not get a chopper to land or hover long enough to get a medevac out to recover our wounded soldiers. With 3 more hours left, we were slowly regaining power, but still had our setbacks, which leads us to this photo. 5 of us ran into this Humvee for cover, and the two that came out was my 1st Sgt and myself. As we evacuated out of this Humvee, we had gotten separated. During the separation my 1st sgt had ended up getting hurt and was screaming quite obnoxiously, I quickly ran over without any one to cover me. And as I was tending to him, he continued to scream. I then looked up at him and shouted “STOP SCREAMING! IM SCARED TOO!” His demeanor then became very humble as he stated “Man am I glad to see you! But why did you come?!” And in an instant I replied with one of our motos that we honor and take very seriously as medics “before god, before mom, they call for me, I am a combat medic and I will always come for you”. Shortly after, we finally reached a breaking point where we were able to get the fighting power and support we needed, and we finally got the medevacs to carry out our wounded. And after 13 hours I felt gratitude. I felt gratitude and honor for those who fought for 13 hours as I did my best to respond to those calls of needing a medic. Those serving today and who have served, not only serve the citizens of the US, but we also serve each other and we are proud to call each other family, because that’s what we are, we are brothers and sisters.

We have done things that will haunt us in our sleep so you can sleep in peace, we will sacrifice being away from our families so that you can be with yours, we will sacrifice a lot in our lives, so that you can live free, and we will live by this oath to our country until the day we die because we are and always will be U.S veterans and we do not fear death as much as we fear losing freedom.

This was only one day, and although I have had many other days like this, there are others who have served and have been through far worse than I have. Those who did not make it out of these 13 hours of being over ran and fighting so that the very few of us could make it out and return home, we should all honor them by living a life worth fighting for because we are all worth it. And I am grateful for this day because it stopped all self doubt, it stopped me from questioning why or regretting my service to my country.



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