Soldier stays in Iraq to recover from injuries
November 15, 2007
CAMP TAJI, Iraq - The haunting sounds of "Incoming! Incoming!" will forever be ingrained in Sgt. Cindy Flores' psyche.
Flores, from Company D, 4th "Guns" Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment, 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, was wounded in the leg by shrapnel from incoming rockets a few months ago that killed two Soldiers and two foreign contracted employees and wounded five Soldiers and five foreign-contract workers.
Flores, an aircraft armament and electrical systems repair specialist who hails from Los Angeles, was taking a break from her duties repairing AH-64D Apache helicopters when the rounds hit.
Her five years in the Army taught her what to do in the event of indirect fire. Despite incurring a wound requiring air medical evacuation to Balad for two surgeries, she quickly moved to cover inside a bunker before she knew she was hit.
She received first aid that day from a fellow Soldier from Co. D. That Soldier - Vacaville, Calif., native Staff Sgt. Sean Harris - recounted how Flores kept her cool after the rocket attack.
"She pretty much just turned to me calmly and said, 'I think I have a hole in my leg,'" Harris said.
With recognition of the fact that she was not the first to be wounded in this war - and will likely not be the last - Flores made the difficult decision to forego rehabilitation and treatment for her wound back in the United States and instead returned to her unit at Camp Taji.
Spending that time with her unit was the best medicine for her injuries, she said.
"It was the people I work with," Flores said. "Before I even left here, they gave me so much support - I knew with their help I could pull through. They gave me the strength that I needed."
Flores' projected six-month recovery, which began when she returned to Iraq on crutches, barely able to walk, has brought her to the point that she was able to walk across an outdoor stage Oct. 30 to receive a Purple Heart from the 1st Air Cavalry Brigade commander and Traverse City, Mich., native Col. Daniel Shanahan.
Shanahan impressed upon those attending the award ceremony that Flores' life is forever changed.
"She carries the scars today...and part of that weapon is inside her and will be with her for the rest of her life," Shanahan said. He described the magnitude of the meaning of the award, and the sacrifice of the awardees.
"Those great Soldiers gave a piece of themselves for this great nation of ours," Shanahan said.