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Iowa Veteran of the War in Iraq: Jaymie Holschlag

posted on November 10, 2006


New Hampton native Jaymie Holschlag fits well within her family's tradition. Her father and uncle both served in Vietnam, and her younger sister also served in Iraq. As a medic with Task Force Iron Hawk, Jaymie Holschlag's job was to make sure her fellow soldiers survived their dangerous duty. Their mission was to help save lives by finding and disarming deadly bombs in Ramadi, Iraq.

Holschlag: There's just not too many women in the world that can say that's what they do or that's when they've done.

Mundt: Today Jaymie works as an I.V. Technician at the V.A. Medical center in Iowa City. She first trained as a medic while enlisted in the full-time Army but was never deployed overseas. After the September 11 terrorist attacks, she felt obligated to reenlist. Pregnant with her second child, Jaymie waited two years before joining the National Guard. A single parent, her family members took care of her children while she was deployed.

Holschlag: Leaving my children… I can't describe what that feels like to leave your children. The guilt, the feeling of abandonment, the self-doubt, if this is really what you should be doing. I decided that it was definitely what I needed to do. There was no way around it. It was just something inside of me that said, "I have to go. I have to go do what I'm trained to do and go help in any way that I can."

We first arrived in Iraq after spending sixteen hours flying over the ocean on New Year's Day in 2005. I spent several months at different camps living out of bags and moving numerous, numerous times, like nomads. And then we convoyed into Iraq.

Mundt: En route to Ramadi, a city of 400,000 located on the banks of the Euphrates, tragedy struck when one of the vehicles hit an IED. The bomb's destructive force wounded five men. Two did not survive.

Holschlag: We lost Lieutenant Gienau shortly after we started working on him. I found out that Seth was Garceau's first name, and that hit especially hard, because I didn't believe I was going to get him to the helicopter, and my son's first name is Seth. I didn't want to lose him. That day forever changed a lot of people. I may have been the only medic on that convoy, but I'm not the only one that stepped up to take care of those boys.

Mundt: On duty in Ramadi, Jaymie's platoon hunted for hidden IEDs. Having witnessed the deadly potential of these bombs, soldiers were diligent in their efforts. It was on one of these missions that a sniper shot and killed specialist John Wayne Miller.

Holschlag: John Wayne Miller was quite a character... Always trying to make me laugh and always wanted to steal my Pepsis. There was absolutely nothing I could do. When bad things would happen, it would be a long time before I called back home, because I didn't want them to worry. I definitely didn't want my kids worrying, to hear them say that they missed me and: "Mommy, when are you coming home?" Especially for a long while there, where I personally had the constant feeling that I may not be coming home. The change from being fearful to living for your mission was the pride that you took in what you did. And the lives that you knew you were saving, it wasn't so much that people wanted to go hunt bombs, but you did want to because you didn't want one more soldier to die. It's very profound; it's a pride that nothing I've ever done can remotely touch.

Mundt: A tested combat medic, Jaymie served for a year in Ramadi before returning home.

Holschlag: I was so excited to know I was coming home for Christmas, and then so utterly guilty, ashamed, lost standing in Wal-Mart trying to buy my son clothes because I didn't know what size clothes he wore. That is a terrible feeling for a mother. Somewhere inside of a woman that says that is not all right, that you don't know this about your child. Or you fix them something -- "Well, I don't like that"; "Well, you liked it when I left"! The littlest things, but they compound and they compound and they compound until you'd rather be hunting a bomb and being called "Doc" than deal with all the things that you no longer know how to do.

Mundt: Jaymie strives to hold on to all that is most dear: Her children; caring for others; and her sense of duty.

Holschlag: I am proud of what I've accomplished, and I continue to strive to accomplish more and more. And I love being home with my kids, and I love my new job. There's just this threshold of accomplishments, and it's still a far cry from feeling that level that I felt over there. It's a feeling I strive for every day, to find -- to be grateful for the things that I've got in my life, because I'm grateful. I just wish they made me feel like that did.

Tags: bombs Iowa Iraq PTSD veterans


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