ANOTHER FIELDING HERO
Commander Jennifer Fielding was tired. No, she was totally exhausted but duty called and she responded as she always had. It was just another routine day in the life of a Naval Aviator and then all at once it wasn't. She had seen some heavy shit in her twenty plus year career but this day looked like it would take first place in the shit category. Her take off had been delayed for almost an hour while the mechanics ran down a problem in her bird. She also had a discipline problem to work on when she returned to the ship. Two of her sailors had decided they loved each other and had been caught doing the dirty in a paint locker. At least she was lucky enough that they had been of opposite sexes. Still, after her investigation she would have to spend several hours at Captains Mast and taking care of the assorted paperwork.
Finally Commander Fielding had been able to take off on her first flight of the day. On the way back to the ship she planned to turn this flight into a check flight and possibly training mission for her copilot. She was flying off the USS Enterprise on what was supposed to be a very boring flight. She was way too senior to be doing mail runs which is what this flight was supposedly about. She had ulterior motives when she opted to take this flight and use it as a check flight on her copilot when they returned to the ship.
Commander Fielding's reason for taking this flight was a very good one to her at least. The official reason for the flight was to make a mail run into Bagdad Iraq. All she was supposed to do was fly in, pickup and deliver mail and load some parts her ship needed. Unofficially, however, she was on a personal mission as well. Normally one of her junior pilots would get this duty but her Uncle Jeffery Fielding was "in town" and she wanted to take a few minutes to visit him. He was a Soldier but she didn't hold that against him one little bit. In fact, most of her family were Soldiers rather than Sailors but what the heck. Jennifer had felt the call of the sea when she was young and followed the roughly ten to twenty percent of her relatives who went into the Navy instead of the Army.
Uncle Jeff was only going to be in country for a few days so she had a choice of taking this mission or chancing not being able to see him for several more months. Jennifer had just read in her copy of the Army Times that Colonel Jeffery Fielding had been selected for the rank of Brigadier General and she wanted to congratulate him in person. She had flown late into the night the day before serving as pilot of the helo that was always up during flight ops. She was supposed to be off most of the morning but when she got the e-mail from Jeffery she decided to take the flight and visit him. Truthfully Jennifer was lonely. She was senior enough she had very few friends and peers on board. She had never been married so had no close family to write to or call. Oh, sure, she had her birth family back home in Missouri but she had no one special, no one she was close to and she needed that desperately. It seemed all she did was work, eat and sleep. At least if she took the mail run she could see someone special and have a few hours of pleasant conversation. She really needed to catch up on family and the happenings back home.
CDR Fielding brought her bird in carefully and skillfully when she reached the airport. She was slowly settling down for what she hoped would be a textbook landing when her Crew Chief yelled, "Commander get out of here! We have a hot LZ. INCOMING." As she heard him over the intercom she also received the radioed warning from the flight controller. The airport was being hit with mortars.
Jennifer looked around and saw an explosion just to the side of her aircraft. She started back up when another explosion hit just under the nose of the aircraft. Jennifer felt several hard hits on the aircraft. She felt something slam into her right breast. Her right arm went numb and flopped away from the controls. The aircraft began to nose right and drop toward the tarmac.
Jennifer looked down and saw a mass of blood on the right side of her chest. Her flight suit had been torn open and she could see dark red blood seeping out of her body. The pain hit and she moaned. She could hear her copilot yelling in the background as he tried to get control of the bird.
They hit the ground with a hard wallop and screech. Jennifer saw the front of the canopy moving toward her and heard the rotor hit the tarmac. She felt a deep blackness envelop her.
Slowly, painfully CDR Fielding awoke. Her whole body ached with a deep throbbing pain. Her right chest ached with a sharp stabbing pain. Every breath and movement hurt. She heard a moan then realized it was her. She bit her lip to stifle the noise. It was dark in the room where she lay. The doorway was open and she saw light in the hallway. There was faint noise coming through the open door. There was a steady beep, beep, beep coming from the equipment she was attached to.
An Army Lieutenant, a Nurse, came into the room. She smiled at Jennifer and said, "Good evening Commander. I'm Lieutenant Samuels. How do you feel?"
Jennifer tried to smile and said, "Like Crap. I hurt all over."
"I expect you do." The Lieutenant reached for a small cord with a push button on the end. She handed it to Jennifer and said, "This is the control for your pain killer. When the pain begins to bother you too much just push the button and you will get a small dose of Morphine. Don't worry. You can't get too much. It is set to only allow you so much an hour."
While the nurse was talking she was checking all the vital signs on Jennifer. She checked blood pressure, pulse and temperature, made some notes on the chart. She gave Jennifer a quick smile and knelt to check the bag attached to a catheter. "You're doing fine Commander," she said.
Jennifer looked at the young woman and whispered, "My crew? Did they ... are they ok?"
"I don't know about all of them ma'am. Your Crew Chief is pretty badly banged up. He wasn't strapped in well and got thrown around a lot when you went in. Your Copilot has a broken leg and some scrapes and abrasions but he'll be fine. Was there anyone else on board?"
Jennifer shook her head no and said, "No, just the three of us this trip. Will Smitty make it? When can I see them?"
"I really can't say Commander. We'll have to see what the Doctor says about visitors. You aren't going anywhere for a while yourself and the Crew Chief can't get out of bed either. Maybe your copilot can drop in on both of you. He is mobile at least. Of course all of you will be leaving in a day or two. You've all got a ticket home."
Later--Jennifer had no idea how much later--a doctor came into her room. He was a Colonel, US Army. He gave her what she was to come to call his "Doctor Smile" and said in an obviously falsely cheerful voice, "Well good morning Commander. How do you feel?"
Somewhat later after the obligatory fines and you'll do wells were out of the way Jennifer finally had the nerve to ask, "Sir how badly was I really hit. I mean, I saw the mess on my chest and I'm pretty sure I had some other holes in me..."
The doctor walked to the other side of the room, picked up a folding chair and pulled it back beside Jennifer's bed. He sat down backwards on it, leaned his chest on the backrest and opened her file. He glanced at it then held it in front of him. Commander, there's no good way to say this. You lost almost your entire right breast. We saved the nipple and most of the upper side. The underside and some of your muscles were ripped away. Luckily the shrapnel that hit your chest was moving from right to left and slightly back to front. If you had been leaning just a little to the left side the damage would have been much less. You took another piece of shrapnel through your lower right side. It missed the kidney but damaged your right ovary and some of your intestines."
The Colonel looked over at Jennifer. He saw the tears, grimaced and continued, "Do you have a family? Children?" When Jennifer shook her head no he continued in a softer voice. "Commander we can reconstruct your breast. We left as much flesh as possible for the plastic surgeons to work with so it can be done. There will be some serious scar tissue and that just can't be helped. You lost enough muscle your right side will probably be weaker than it was. You still have one perfect ovary. There will be some scaring in the reproductive tract. I just can't tell you how that might affect you if you decide to have children in the future. I'm afraid you would have to talk to a specialist about that. Physically you can expect a full recovery however."
Jennifer felt her eyes water. She bit her lip and turned her head away from the doctor. She took a deep shuddering breath and said, "Thank you Sir. At least now I know for sure. For once I am glad I'm a lefty. At least I can still feed myself."
.... There is more of this story ...