Soldier stayed focused as his return home neared

April 16, 2007|by Spc. Jeffrey Ledesma / U.S. Army 1st Cavalry Division Public Affairs

Editor's note: This story was written in late March, before Spc. Andrew James Lynn of Hagerstown left Iraq to return home on leave.

BAGHDAD - The twisted razor wire that curls high above the fortified walls of the base camp, the soldiers' home away from home, is the obscure thin red line that separates the feeling of security and the one of danger.

Spc. Andrew James Lynn of Hagerstown, an infantryman with Company C, 1st Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, makes it through a major clearing operation, "Arrowhead Strike 9," days before leaving for home on environmental morale leave.

But he is a little nervous, because there is always a lingering sense of danger in a combat zone.

"We've had a lot of close calls, but it's our job," said the 21-year-old on his second deployment.

During his first month in the Iraqi capital, he was a driver and received a rude awakening when his patrols were hit by two roadside bombs.


"There were two people who were killed in the same place I hit an (improvised explosive device). Those were some pretty close calls, but luckily, Strykers are some tough vehicles," said Lynn, the son of James and Linda Lynn.

He said that despite going outside the wire being nerve-racking, he understands the importance of looking past the thought of something life-threatening happening to complete the mission, even when he knows he is days away from going home to see his family.

In the most recent operation, as part of a push for Baghdad security, his battalion was responsible for clearing operations in parts of the Al Mansour neighborhoods of the Iraqi capital.

As he stood on the bench manning his weapon, peeking up above the hatch, he realized he was all too familiar to the neighborhood they were driving through.

"We've been here before and we know the dangers this place is capable of," Lynn said. "It definitely makes me nervous a couple of days before I get to go home."

However, Lynn added that thoughts about all the possible dangers disappear when he drives out into the city and focuses on his job, and that he's done it time after time.

After conducting clearing operations March 21, all Lynn had to do was survive the next day's mission and he would be home free.

"Just one day left. I just got to make it through this last day," he said.

After his company operated from an observation point, they assisted in clearing houses March 22. Finally, the last couple of hours of the operations began to tick away.

"Thoughts of being inches away from being home with my family would pop into my mind, but then I had to refocus and remember I am here to do a job and I have to stay aware of my surroundings and what's going on," Lynn said. "I never let my guard down."

He was glad when he rolled safely past the high walls of his 'home away from home' in one piece.

"A lot of people at my church really support what I do," Lynn said. "They pray for me every day and that's one of the reasons why I think nothing's happened to me."

Back in the embrace of the tall walls the next day, the 6-foot-tall soldier slept in, got a haircut, got his bags packed and soon would be on his way back to the States to visit his family and friends in the Old Line State.

Although Lynn has made it through 10 months of being in a combat zone, some people - both here and back home - haven't. Unfortunately, during his deployment he lost his uncle, a Vietnam veteran, retired Sgt. Ronnie Swope.

"My uncle was the guy who told me stories and what being in the military was like," Lynn said. "I am kind of carrying out his legacy."

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