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Words fail me

Here's a soldier, who, when her time comes, will be piped into Heaven by a huge side party. I know, I'm mixing Army and Navy images there. I think I just met a future commander of Guardian Angel Command - or ANGCOM as it's known at Castle Argghhh!  H/t, Miss Ladybug.

Army Sgt. Jennifer Watson, non-commissioned officer-in-charge of the Casualty Liaison Team at Joint Base Balad, stands in Hero's Highway. Each patient brought via helicopter to the Air Force Theater Hospital passes through Hero's Highway. Watson, a native of Peru, Ind., is deployed here from Fort Campbell, Ky. Photo by Staff Sgt. Dilia Ayala, 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing.JOINT BASE BALAD — The emergency-room trauma call and the medical staff's immediate action upon his arrival is only a memory to her now; sitting quietly at the bedside of her brother-in-arms, she carefully takes his hand, thanking him for his service and promising she will not leave his side.
He is a critically injured combat casualty, and she is Army Sgt. Jennifer Watson of the Casualty Liaison Team here.

Although a somber scene, it is not an uncommon one for the Peru, Ind., native, who in addition to her primary duties throughout the last 14 months, has taken it upon herself to ensure no U.S. casualty passes away alone. Holding each of their hands, she sits with them until the end, no matter the day or the hour.

"It's unfortunate that their families can't be here," said Watson, who is deployed here from Fort Campbell, Ky. "So I took it upon myself to step up and be that family while they are here. No one asked me to do it; I just did what I felt was right in my heart. I want them to know they are heroes.

"I feel just because they are passing away does not mean they cannot hear and feel someone around them," she continued. "I talk to them, thanking them for what they have done, telling them they are a hero, they will never be forgotten, and I explain my job to them to help them be at ease knowing the family will be told the truth."

In general, Watson explains to the patients that the CLT works within the Patient Administrative Department here, acting as a liaison for all military and civilian patients in-theater and initiating the casualty-notification process to the patient's next-of-kin.

Upon their arrival at the Air Force Theater Hospital, Watson speaks with each combat casualty getting as accurate information as possible about the incident. Once the doctor gives their diagnosis and severity of the patient's injuries, Watson and her team complete and send a Defense Casualty Information Processing System folder report to the Department of the Army or the patient's respective service so that their next-of-kin can be notified.

"I make sure we tell their family everything they want to know, so they know everything that's going on," said Watson. "[Through the report], we'll tell the families everything that is going on with their family member ... so that they don't have any questions."

Furthermore, once the initial report has been sent, the CLT and Watson make hourly rounds to the intensive-care ward or unit to check on the patient's well-being, or, for the more critical patients, to check on their stability.

"We are constantly communicating and making sure the family knows everything we know," said Watson. "We want to put the families at ease and let them know that everything is being done for their loved one. From the moment a servicemember is brought in through Hero's Highway, they are never alone."

Each month, the AFTH, the equivalent of a U.S. Level-1 trauma center, treats more than 539 patients; more than 101 are trauma cases in the emergency department. Although Watson can never predict if and when her fellow brothers- or sisters- in arms may need her, she is always available here.

"The hospital staff is wonderful," said Watson. "They know how important it is for me to be there with them and if they know it's time, someone will come and get me no matter where I'm at.

"I see it as a form of closure, not just for me, but for the families so that they know that somebody was there with their son or daughter," she added. "My heart goes out to every patient that comes into the hospital, especially my wounded in action Soldiers. I feel like everyone who comes through the door is my brother or sister."

Not surprisingly, Watson's dedication to duty and her hard work have not gone unnoticed. She has touched the lives of all those who she has come in contact with, to include the 332nd Expeditionary Medical Group commander, Col. Mark Mavity.

"Sgt. Watson's story is one of the most compelling here in the Med Group," said Mavity. "She is a Soldier's Soldier who combines an unparalleled level of compassion and commitment to our most grievously wounded warriors with amazing professionalism each and every day.

"What is truly incredible is that she is a personnelist by training but with the heart of a medic who has taken it upon herself to hold the hand and keep a bedside vigil with every mortally wounded Soldier who has spent their last hours within the AFTH," continued the colonel. "She will not let her brave brothers or sisters pass alone. This is a heavy burden to bear and at great personal emotional cost to Sgt. Watson, but she is unwavering in her final commitment to these Soldiers. You don't have to look any further than Sgt. Watson to find a true hero."

"Angel" and "hero" are only two of the many titles Watson has been given since arriving at JBB; although she is appreciative of the kind words, she remains humble.

"I am far from an angel," said the sergeant with a smile. "I just do what is in my heart. I guess for me, I think about the family and the closure of knowing the Soldier did not pass away alone. To say I'm a hero ... no. The heroes are my guys who come in [through Hero's Highway]."

Reflecting on her time here, Watson said she is extremely thankful for the opportunity she has had to work side-by-side with the Air Force.

"The staff of the 332nd Expeditionary Medical Group has done an amazing job since I have been here," she said. "They are incredible. They have done procedures and saved the lives of the most critically injured Soldiers, and have been some of the most professional people I have ever worked with.

"I want the families to know that their servicemember was a hero," Watson concluded. "They made the ultimate sacrifice, but before they passed on, they received the best medical treatment, and the staff did everything they could -- they were not in pain and they didn't die alone."

(By Staff Sgt. Dilia Ayala, 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing)

The original story, from the MNF-I website, can be seen (and their feed subscribed to) by clicking here.

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Over at the Donovan's place, words fail too. Sergeant Watson is one helluva soldier. Read More


Simply amazing.  That's a story that's heart-breaking and heart-warming at the same time.  It seems that every week we find out about something incredible that one of our brave troops has done, and you just have to marvel at it all.  Every time I think I could not be prouder of our heros, they do something even more impressive.  God bless them all.
Her actions merit an award of some sort.   A non-combat equivalent of the Silver Star, if there was such a thing  Maybe a MSM?

May God bless her in her future endeavors, and may the memories of the suffering of those she consoled be outweighed by the memories of her selfless actions.
Though she herself may have her boots firmly on the ground, I think I can glean her angel wings from under her ACU's.

I often wondered if someone was with our mortally wounded heroes; being with them in their final moment.  Love.  There is no MOS for that...God bless her and keep her. 


John (NTA) - I'm thinking a Bronze Star (without the V Device for Valor, it's essentially an MSM for a combat zone).

Officers who do their jobs well in combat zones (who may never have fired a shot) get them, I see no reason Sergeant Watson shouldn't be considered for one - though her rank will make it more of a challenge to get through the system, perhaps.

I dunno.  I suspect that what she does is reward enough for her, and a boon beyond imagining to those she helps.

That might be overkill - but putting her in for that might make the MSM easier to get through the mill.


Thanks to John's post, members of the American Legion and VFW in and around Sgt Watson's home town of Peru, In. have been made aware of her actions.

Knowing them as I do, I can imagine she'll get quite a homecoming when the time comes.

Boq -- her wings are there, and not hidden. You just have to look closely, with your soul's eye...
What a wonderful Lady.  May she never have any work to do.
I am totally blown away, this is a Soldier's  Solder, like a wing man. She is on the toughest battlefield of life. There are no medals which adequately measure her service to this Nation. If you look with your soul's eye, into the future, hopefully a long time from now, you begin to see the picture. You see, it is now her turn to go to the "Fiddler's Green". The men with the bagpipes getting warmed up, everybody is gathering around the gates, here she comes. Then, you hear a voice from "On High", *"Alright people, make a hole. Let her in. SGT Jennifer Watson, WELCOME!"* (Cheers) "SGT, you didn't forget, we don't forget!", from all those at the Green.
I am a mother of a young soldier, who has had 2 tours in Afghanistan.  He is scheduled to go next year on a 3rd.   I thank you with all my heart ,for being with these beautiful boys and girls,because us mothers can't be. 
John (both of you) - I think the "V" needs to stay.

John, your title fits... that's all I can say...

concur with Jack.  make it Bronze, and put a V on it.  there is more valor in her actions than i could ever hope to muster.
As I read that the other day, I couldn't help but wonder if - in the same situation - I would have the strength to do what she does.  I haven't been faced with much death or dying, in the immediate sense, especially, and I haven't quite figured out how to deal...  She is a special soul, indeed.
I'm sure she'd rather get what Argent wished for her, than any medal.  She is an angel indeed, and God bless her for it.

An absolutely incredible person! 

If her stint in the military was soley that of being by the bedside of these critically wounded soldiers until they pass on.........this would be a heart wrenching and full time job in itself.  What strength and compassion in this young woman.  God love her.

I think the word "invaluable" falls short of how AMAZING she really is.
as the other mom commented---we are so thankful someone like this is there where we can't be.   amazing story.   an amazing calling.

  She truly is a sister to everyone there. She's simply doing the one thing that God asks of us all. Love your neighbor as you would yourself. 

   More than any medal (although i support that idea fuly) she needs a school named after her, so that kids will learn her name and story.

God has truly touched Sgt. Watson's heart and made it Army STRONG. How else could she possibly bear the pain of watching so many heroes pass from this world? An award for valour would be more than appropriate for this beautiful warrior.
Incredible story.  She'll have a crowd waiting to greet her when she crosses over.
She absolutely gives special meaning to "service..."

Bless her.
I've got no words either. Only tears
I'm just a law enforcement Chaplain, so I know I have no say so, but...

I hereby propose a honorary MOS change to the Chaplain Corps and an honorary field promotion to the rank of Captain.

May God return unto her the blessings she has been to others.
...though her rank will make it more of a challenge to get through the system.

If she isn't recommended for the BSM, the chain is blind.

If she is recommended for the BSM and it's downgraded to a Green Weenie (or worse, an AAM), the chain is blind.

I concur with John. She undoubtedly knows that the "V" device is awarded for action in combat, and would be mortified to see it on anything she received for performing quiet acts of human kindness. The "V" device won't make her actions any more laudatory, and the absence of one won't make them any less so.
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Yes, the chain (Of Command) is blind.

Yes, she is doing wondrous things.

She is setting herself up for some _massive_ PTSD sometime down the road.  I've known a Nam Nurse or 2 and a Donut Dolly or three.   This girl....scratch that....Soldier...yes, that's better, is setting herself up for a _big_ heap of PTSD.

She will have a massive welcome at Fiddler's Green, that is for sure; I only hope that she lives a long and _peaceful_ life before that time comes.
Sergeant Watson,

Please excuse me, I seem to be having a defect in my eye...can't seem to see too well just now, must be the dust in the air....that's it...dust in the air.


I have no words, just tears of thanks.
She is definitely a warrior of tremendous strength and courage.

The last few weeks there have been many casualities, and so a number of the Soldiers' Angels in my circle have been directly impacted by them, either because the KIA was a soldier/Marine they adopted, or because they have been ministering to the families after the death.  The accumulation of these last few weeks has stressed and pained beyond belief, though their contact has been from a distance.  Strength such as this young warrior has is astonishing.
 I don't think she will end up with a massive case of PTSD.   As tragic and horrific as battefield conditions are, I think death is the point where heaven and earth meet and transcend the cares and burdens of this world.  For this young lady to hold their hands and tell them they are not alone...she is helping their families.  Hers is the errand of angels, and I believe that she will be blessed for her unselfish love to be there when the family can't and there is no time. 
She IS a sweet lady.....but --and I did study the article and the comments carefully before commenting -- is there not something far more needful than leaving this earth with no human companion? Did not chaplains who know this, used to be the ones who were "there" for those soldiers.....?--wondering in grief
Ma Sands - I chose to highlight the positive, rather than shine a light on the possibly negative.

Instead, I'm doing that journalist thing - asking some questions before I go there.

I have served at Joint Base Balad twice within 2years! This is a great story, and my heart goes out to all of our wounded heroes!!! To Sgt. Watson you truely are an Angel! I have been in that Hospital many times during both of my tours, and have volunteered there as well! You are doing a great job and just wanted to let you know that someone here in the states appreciates all that you and everyone in the Medical dept. does!!!! I will be headed back in 2010 for an escort if I have to go while over there.....I wouldn't want anyone else to hold my hand!!!!
God Bless!