Medic home from Iraq values St. Croix ValleyAfter nearly a year in Iraq as a flight medic on a helicopter Dave Reker is glad to be home in Hudson where he can enjoy the St. Croix River and real cheese.
By: Jon Echternacht, Hudson Star-Observer
After nearly a year in Iraq as a flight medic on a helicopter Dave Reker is glad to be home in Hudson where he can enjoy the St. Croix River and real cheese.
“The best thing about being back is getting real cheese,” the 40-year-old Army National Guard specialist said during a conversation at the Star-Observer office last week. “Everything over there is frozen.
“There were times when it hit 140 degrees over there that I just wanted to jump into the St. Croix River,” he said.
Reker deployed to Iraq last August and came home July 27. He served with Charlie Company of the 2nd Battalion, 211th Air Ambulance Regiment, home based at the St. Paul’s downtown airport. C Company supported the U.S. Marine Corps out of Al Asad Air Base in western Iraq flying UH-60 Blackhawk choppers.
He apparently experienced the usual combat situations. “At times we were busy and at times I was bored out of my mind,” Reker said. His unit evacuated wounded soldiers and civilians. Of course some days were more hectic than others, but his first experience was an eye-opener.
“In training they give you the worst-case scenarios in an emergency situation such as a double amputee with an abdominal wound and other injuries,” he said. “They also said we would probably never see it.”
“But my first patient over there was a double amputee with an abdominal wound,” Reker said.
Reker, who works full time for the National Guard, came to Army service in a non-traditional way. He joined the Guard at age 36.
“A lot of my family had been in the medical field and I worked as an EMT for years,” he said.
“I’d done everything I wanted to do,” he said. “I’d read about Vietnam. I thought, why should a 19- or 21-year-old who hasn’t had as much life experience go over there?”
He also admitted to being influence by the TV series MASH that depicted the first chopper MEDEVAC units developed during the Korean War.
Reker said that his service may make for one less younger soldier getting deployed to a combat zone.
For the most part, he worked in Anbar Province that included everything west of Baghdad to the Syrian border, he said.
The experience has taught him things. “I have a bigger understanding of how the world works… the haves and have-nots. I’ve seen people in utter desperation,” he said.
Serving near the confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, the spot where some historians say civilization began, was another unique experience.
“I went to Bible study and met a Navy chaplain who taught me a lot,” he said.
Reker said reading the Bible in the area that scripture described gave more meaning to the text.
Another reason Reker is thrilled to be back is a reunion with his fiancé of eight months, Justine Mercord. Understandable when a bystander mistook her picture on the soldier’s laptop screen saver for a movie star.
The return trip home took five days. “I thought we were never going to get there,” he said. Charlie Company went from Iraq to Germany then entered the USA at Bangor, Maine.
He said at the Bangor airport, a civilian group welcomed them home. “They were called the Maine Troop Greeters,” he said.
Reeker grew up in the Twin Cities and graduated from Edina High School in 1987. His contract with the National Guard runs to 2013. In the meantime he is looking for a job with a local EMT unit.