Some Keesler medics are back home after serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom. They were part of the 81st Medical Group. All have a lot of years in the military, and all say this was an experience unlike anything they have ever encountered.
The nurse anesthetists arrived in mid February. They did not know exactly where they were going, but they did know, this was the real thing.
''When you land that plane with lights out, with the shades down, you find out real quick you are in a real zone," Major Mel Hill said.
The Keesler medics were highly trained to treat people exposed to chemical weapons. Fortunately they did not have to put that training to use, although they stayed very busy in the emergency rooms.
For Major Allison Beach, this was her first experience in a war zone.
"It has definitely impacted me as far as my feelings toward the Iraqi people," Major Beach said.
The major also recalled a conversation she had with an Iraqi citizen her medical team was treating. Over the years, 12 of the man's relatives had been murdered by Saddam Hussien's regime.
"He had watched his mother executed in front of him, shot, " according to Beach.
His uncle was also killed by a Republican Guard member, after the military man took some eggs the man was holding for his children. Here is how Major Beach recalls the conversation.
"And he said, 'What are you doing? You are getting my eggs.' And the Republican Guard took him out of the line with his eggs, called his family in, and literally buried him alive in front of his family," the man told Major Beach.
All the medics say they are very glad they went to the Middle East, but most of all, they were immensely proud of their fellow military members.