Miesau families welcome MASH unit home from Middle East
Stars and Stripes June 11, 2003
MIESAU ARMY DEPOT, Germany — If soldiers go to war with quiet resolve, coming home from war can turn even the most circumspect into someone who could make a pretty nice living creating those mushy greeting cards.
Holding his daughter Dominique, 5, Staff Sgt. Alex Hunt ticked off all the things he thought about sitting in the Iraqi desert with his unit, the Miesau-based 212th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital. The first couple of months, Hunt said, there was no time for anything but his job.
“But after a couple of months, you had time to think,” he said. “Time to think about holding your kids. Playing with your kids.
“About having a chance to hold your wife and to tell her how much you really love her.
“You take that for granted.”
Except for a five-soldier “trail party” to load equipment, the final 50 soldiers of the 170-strong MASH unit — the Army’s last MASH unit — returned Tuesday from the front lines without suffering any losses itself.
They treated 734 people — soldiers, Iraqi prisoners of war and civilians. Capt. Art Finch, a clinical psychologist, alone saw 350 people.
Four months in the middle of Operation Iraqi Freedom was a wild ride, according to all accounts.
The MASH unit raced north during a 78-hour convoy from Kuwait following — and sometimes racing past — the Fort Stewart, Ga.-based 3rd Infantry Division; V Corps elements from Heidelberg, Germany; and elements of the 101st Airborne Division from Fort Campbell, Ky.
“They were the first Army hospital to establish operations in Baghdad,” said Maj. Troy Mosely, 212nd MASH executive officer. At one point, the unit set up operations 40 miles from Baghdad in the worst dust storm in the last 30 years, Mosely said.
Rear detachment soldiers worked to keep families in touch with soldiers at war, and to make sure soldiers in the field had nothing to worry about back home, said Sgt. 1st Class Calvin Marshall.
“It’s the lack of knowing actually drives families wild,” Marshall said.
So soldiers back home set up satellite phone calls during a family readiness group so people could hear the truth “instead of feeding on the nuclear power of rumors,” said Capt. Gary Murvin, rear detatchment commander.
After the war started March 19, communication ended.
“People were sitting on pins and needles. Then, little by little, e-mails started popping up,” Murvin said.
Now, it is over and they are all safe.
A family jumping with joy surrounded Alex Hunt. Son A.J., 11, beamed when he told his father about making the A honor roll. Dominique was laughing because her daddy had lipstick on his cheek.
“I’m happy, happy, happy!” wife Sandra said, dancing in place. “He’s a sight for sore eyes!”
The reunion was everything she dreamed it would be, Sandra Hunt said. “Last night I was nervous,” she said. “They told us they were coming home, then they called and said they weren’t. It was an emotional roller coaster.”
While one of his guys had a cold Corona beer waiting for him after he cleared, Capt. Sean Lankford, medical services officer, had an even better treat waiting in the family car — a Whopper with cheese.
“It was his idea,” said his wife, Erin, gesturing to an ecstatic Andrew Lankford, 5.
As Sean Lankford hugged and hugged his son, Erin Lankford gave out an almost involuntary, ‘Hoo-hoo!” at the thought of her husband being home after four months.
“Andrew asked me yesterday, ‘Would you be mad if I played with Dad?’ ” she said. Erin Lankford stopped and laughed at the thought. “I said, ‘Noooo!’ ”