By Amanda Kim Stairrett
Killeen Daily Herald
FORT HOOD – First Lt. Anna King-McCrillis toughed it out for months before she was sent back to the United States from her first deployment to Iraq.
The lieutenant sustained a dislocated jaw, broken left wrist and brain injuries when a mortar round landed less than 10 feet away from a modular housing area in which she was getting ready on Aug. 7. She didn't want to leave Iraq. She didn't want to leave her husband, another first lieutenant. She didn't want to leave her soldiers. But then the headaches got too bad, and it was hard for her to sleep.
King-McCrillis was sent to Germany for tests, and it was discovered that a pool of blood had formed in the left side of her brain.
Doctors only recently discovered she broke her left wrist and she will undergo surgery in early January to fix a bone that healed the wrong way.
King-McCrillis was one of four 1st Cavalry Division soldiers honored at Tuesday's Purple Heart ceremony. Thirty-one volunteers also were recognized by division leaders.
The 25-year-old lieutenant enlisted in the Army as a lab technician in 2001, soon after Sept. 11. She promised her father that she would work toward becoming an officer, and three years later she was commissioned.
Her father served for 20 years in the Air Force, but she chose the Army "because you get to shoot more," she said with a smile on Tuesday.
When she was sent back to the United States for treatment, her husband, who is in the same squadron, got permission to take leave and accompany her to Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio. The two shared a room in Iraq and that made the deployment "absolutely easier," she said.
Coming to Fort Hood from the hospital in San Antonio and getting a Purple Heart pinned on her Army Combat Uniform left King-McCrillis with many mixed emotions, she said.
"It's definitely not an award I was going for," she said.
However, seeing it attached to her lapel brings peace to her mind that her injury is significant and she did the right thing by coming home.
"Sometimes, I think I could have stayed," she said, but the Purple Heart was proof she needed to get "fixed."
King-McCrillis would have preferred to stay in Iraq with "her guys." It's tough to be separated from her husband and her soldiers.
"That's my family, too," she said. "I miss my guys a lot."
She keeps in contact with them through e-mails and plans to be at the division's parade field in January to greet them when they arrive home.
Contact Amanda Kim Stairrett at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (254) 501-7547