Veteran Spotlight: Sgt. Jeremy Healy
He enlisted after graduating from New Lebanon (N.Y.) High School and his basic training at Fort Sill, Okla., that September began in somewhat dramatic fashion.
"Things were a little relaxed when I first got there. I was signing my dog tag papers, when all of a sudden an air raid siren went off and they took us to a field," he said. "Said we could go home now if we wanted — two planes had just hit the World Trade Center. 9/11 had happened. From then on, they made things more intense — used live rounds of ammunition and trained us like crazy."
Healy's first assignment would take him to Fort Jackson, S.C., a training base for mechanics and drivers. He would make his first of two deployments beginning in Tikrit, outside of Baghdad, Iraq, at Forward Operating Base Speicher, now Majid al Tamimi Airbase. He would remain there from 2004 to 2005 (his second deployment was from 2009 to 2010) and would describe his experience as "as hellish as it could get."
He went from a truck driving unit to an escort convoy unit. Initially, vehicles had sandbags on the floor and bulletproof vests on the windows. When asked if he was ever afraid, Healy responded without hesitation, "Oh yeah. My life was constantly in danger from car bombs, RPGs, IEDs ... the enemy tried to hurt us in any way they could."
He said they'd put bombs in dead animals along the road, fill trash bags and soda cans with explosives, string cables across the road to decapitate gun turret drivers and have kids throw grenades down from an overpass. One time a woman come onto a base and detonated a vest with bombs.
"The enemy never followed the Geneva Convention. They broke it in every way possible. They'd set tires on fire and the black smoke would alert the terrorists. Our rule of thumb was that if you saw kids outside, you were OK. If there were no kids, look out," he said. "In addition to the enemy, you're out on the gun turret of your vehicle going 55-60 mph in sandstorms, too."
How were the holidays? "Morale actually dropped," Healey responded. "The chow hall did Christmas, Thanksgiving and Easter dinner but it was difficult. Technology wasn't like it is today. There was a 4-second delay and if you talked at the same time, the call would end. They didn't establish a computer network until about eight months in to send emails."
I asked about entertainment while he was deployed and Healy brightened. "Those helped us a great deal, the USO Shows. I saw Robin Williams, the Washington Redskin Cheerleaders — they were really awesome," he said.
Healy's service while deployed is nothing short of exemplary and his humility serves as a benchmark for the type of individual he is. During his first deployment he went on more than 300 missions, logged 1,000 miles, had multiple KIAs as well as multiple engagements. For him to be alive, is truly a miracle. As one can imagine, Fourth of July and New Year's are not his favorite times of the year.
"It took a lot to get used to the everyday, normal life. It's still tough driving," he said. "I still get nightmares and flashbacks."
Healy is now helping and saving others in civilian life as a firefighter with Engine 6 in Pittsfield.
His thoughts on his military career?
"It's something I wanted to do, I wanted to serve my country," he said. "I'm never felt comfortable talking about myself. I'm not one to hype myself."
Sgt. Jeremy Healy, thank you for your service to our great country.
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