Navy gives hero's farewell to sailor shot in head in Iraq
The (Bremerton, Wash.) Kitsap Sun/MCT
BREMERTON — There was a lot of hero talk during Holly Crabtree's retirement ceremony.
The hospital corpsman chief, shot in the head by a sniper two years ago in Iraq, never fully recovered and left the Navy on Friday after 14 years.
The Port Angeles native was shot near Ramadi, west of Baghdad, on April 15, 2010, while providing medical support for a couple SEAL teams. The bullet pierced her helmet near her left temple, entered her skull, and came to rest behind her ear.
"Today we celebrate serving with a hero," Lt. Martie Johnson, said during the invocation.
They celebrated with another hero — Medal of Honor recipient Leroy Petry. The Army sergeant first class, stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, made a surprise appearance.
"I got word of it and said it would be my honor to be there," Petry said.
While shot through both legs in Afghanistan, Petry saved fellow Rangers by picking up and throwing a live enemy grenade. It exploded as he let go, blowing off his right hand.
Also in the crowd on the Naval Hospital Bremerton quarterdeck were Crabtree's 6-year-old daughter Leah, an uncle and great aunt and uncle.
"A Medal of Honor winner came to see your mother — not an admiral or general, a Medal of Honor winner — not for him but for her," Johnson, a chaplain, told Leah.
After being wounded, Crabtree was attached to James A Haley Veterans Affairs Hospital in Tampa, Fla. While there, besides receiving therapy, she "inspired and motivated several critically wounded soldiers and instilled a positive, can-do spirit." For that, she received her fourth Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal on Friday.
En route to her new post at Naval Hospital Bremerton, she got a hero's welcome June 10 at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. It included a large crowd of greeters and firetrucks spraying water across the plane's nose.
Crabtree, 32, grudgingly accepted medical retirement.
"I can still move my hand. I can still walk a little bit. I'm still good. I can do something," she said of wanting to continue her career. Finally, she gave in.
"You know what, I can keep on going, do it one more time," she said of starting a new life chapter.
Petry, who's still in the Army, helps injured Rangers at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. Crabtree, who has trouble controlling the right side of her body and walks with a cane, wants to do something similar.
"I plan on still helping wounded warriors and seeing as many as I can to give them encouragement to keep on going," she said. "I want people to know this injury changed my whole life, but to tell wounded people there's still hope."
Distributed by MCT Information Services