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Veteran Spotlight: Army Sgt. Christine Zecker

By Wayne SoaresSpecial to iBerkshires
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Christine Zecker served in the Army for nearly a decade, including working in a specialized psychiatric unit. 
LEE, Mass. — Christine Zecker served her country in Army as a sergeant from 1989 to 1998. She enlisted on Halloween night at 21 years of age and was sent to basic training at Fort Jackson, S.C., where she was platoon leader for her class. 
 
"It was the first real basic training, on the verge of war. Lots of people went AWOL or had breakdowns. We were in lockdowns with newspapers and media outlets. They wouldn't let us see anything that would distract us from our training," she remembered of the lead up to Desert Storm. 
 
Zecker's first assignment was psychiatric specialist training at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas, then onto Lackland Air Force Base at the Audie Murphy Veterans Hospital, where she worked in a psychiatric unit. 
 
"We were working with veterans and dependents and a range of others: PTSD, drug and alcohol, depression," she said. "I learned a great deal there and forged some great relationships — saw a lot of crazy stuff, too. ...
 
"Had this one man, he was a 'tunnel rat' in Vietnam (a soldier who searched and destroyed Viet Cong tunnels) and went outside in the courtyard and was smoking a joint. He had a razor blade with him and was talking to himself — he had that look, it's unforgettable — he was a person that couldn't function in society."
 
Zecker said it was the war that did that to him, "you can't see your best friend's head on a stick and come out alright." Despite being frightened, she was able to talk to him and get the razor blade away from him. 
 
"On the funny side of things, we had this guy that all he talked about was knowing the president and how he embezzled all this
money and stole this money," she said. "And you know what? The Feds came and actually got him."
 
Was she ever afraid? "Most definitely. I could throw a grenade or fire my M-16 no problem but jumping off a 60-foot tower was petrifying," she recalled. "Crawling under barbed wire while being fired at with live ammunition was equally terrifying." 
 
What was the toughest part of her job? She said it was seeing the people who were being deployed. 
 
"We helped the Huey pilots a lot with guided visualization. We tried to help the people that needed it," Zecker said. "Our unit was trained to prevent PTSD, but you never prevent PTSD, you try to help deal with it. Our unit was one of only six to specialize in PTSD."
 
How were the holidays? "In basic training they canceled Christmas. It was a vulnerable time with the war. I was on KP duty and cleaned pots bigger than me," she said. "I cried a lot ... talked to my family at least seven times on Christmas Day. ...
 
"A general came in and wished me a Merry Christmas, asked me where I was from. My mom was a baker and sent our platoon cookies and presents."
 
Zecker also share a wonderful memory: "My dad would walk around town and take pictures of things and send them to me. Mom sent clippings from the local newspapers on people in town that were deployed ... it was nice."
 
What did her service mean to her? "It was the greatest privilege and honor aside from my being a mother," Zecker said. "I'm very patriotic and love our country so much ... I'm still close with the woman I shipped out to basic with as well as my unit."
 
She is a proud mother of two children and a classically trained chef. She lives in Lee.
 
Sgt. Christine Zecker, thank you for your service to our great country.
 

Veteran Spotlight is a column by Wayne Soares that runs twice a month. Soares is a motivational speaker and comedian who has frequently entertained the troops overseas with the USO. To recommend a veteran for Soares' column, write to waynesoares1@gmail.com.

 

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