A Star Athlete, a Soldier, and a Challenge
By Ira Berkow
The New York Times
June 3, 2004
“It was intensely hot when [Spec. Danielle Green] went up on the roof of the Sadoon Police Station the afternoon of May 25 in Baghdad, she recalled Wednesday from her hospital bed on the fifth floor of Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Her left arm, which now ends just below the elbow, was swathed in bandages from surgery the day before for the insertion of a plate. It was her sixth operation, she estimated, since being wounded.
“She had a more vivid memory of the attack: ‘I didn’t like being alone, but I thought I’d let some of the others cool down below, and then they’d relieve me. It was like I was a sitting duck. But that’s the way it is a lot of the time over there. You want to trust the Iraqis — some are such nice people — but you know you’d better not, even the children. You just never know. And they just don’t want us there.’
“‘We have so much time in which we do nothing,’ Specialist Green said, ‘and you stand outside, or, for me, sometimes sitting in the turret of a tank with your head exposed, and you’re just waiting for something bad to happen.’
“Then she heard a burst of fire. Then there was a second blast, and a rocket from a homemade missile launcher in an apartment building next to the police station hit a water tank on the roof where she was standing guard. The explosion ripped into her.
“She screamed in pain. Her left arm had been hit and shrapnel tore at her left leg and her face.
“Within minutes, soldiers from her unit were up on the roof and covering her. She was quickly taken down to the Humvee. She never lost consciousness.
“‘This is all part of war,’ she said, ‘and you have to be brave. Good people get hurt. I was one of those people. I knew I was taking a risk in joining the Army. I felt certain I’d be sent to Iraq. It’s hard to imagine it’s going to be you.’
“When she got to the hospital, Specialist Green said, she asked her sergeant, ‘Is my hand gone?’
“‘Yes,’ said the sergeant, whose last name, Harrelson, was all she could recall.
“‘And then I broke down,’ she said. ‘And I didn’t cry again until yesterday, when Sergeant Pearce called and asked how I was doing. He was one of those who got me off the roof and onto the vehicle.’
“She thinks it was Sergeant Pearce who had recovered her wedding ring, which had been found on her left hand on the roof. Specialist Green, who was left-handed, was flown first to a hospital in Germany, then to Walter Reed on Saturday. Her husband was flown by the military from Chicago to Washington to be with her.
“Specialist Green seemed stoic, if not even accepting, of her disability. The scars on her left cheek will diminish, she said, and her leg wounds are healing…”
Two Women Bound by Sports, War and Injuries
By Juliet Macur
The New York Times
April 10, 2005
“For 25 days at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Specialist Danielle Green wondered if anyone could ever understand. But on the 26th day, a nurse told her: ‘A new female patient came in today. You have a lot in common.’
“‘Really?’ Specialist Green said, and the nurse nodded.
“Like Specialist Green, the new patient was a 20-something firecracker, a 5-foot-8 former college basketball player, an Army soldier in the military police serving in Iraq. Like Specialist Green, [this soldier] also knew how it felt to have a rocket-propelled grenade shoot through her arm. Specialist Green’s left hand had been torn off.
“In the intensive care unit one floor below, First Lt. Dawn Halfaker lay in a coma, battered and swollen after surviving an ambush. Her right arm was attached to her body by sinews…
Lieutenant Halfaker said she saw a flash and heard Staff Sgt. Norberto Lara scream in the front passenger seat, then slump. A rocket-propelled grenade had pierced the engine and entered the cab, slicing off his right arm and flinging it onto the driver.
The grenade exploded next to Lieutenant Halfaker’s right shoulder. “I’m hit!” she yelled. The blast temporarily blinded her right eye and deafened her right ear.
“She lifted her right hand with her left, then watched it drop in her lap. The grenade had burst through her upper arm, shattered her shoulder blade and broken five ribs that bruised her lung. She recalled herself saying, ‘I am not going to die.’
“Lieutenant Halfaker, who is from Ramona, Calif., never even contemplated war while attending West Point during the later years of the Clinton administration, a time she characterized as happy-go-lucky.
“But after graduating in 2001, she joined the military police, the branch of the Army that would bring her close to ground combat, and jumped at the chance to test her leadership when the war began. Lieutenant Halfaker said she had ‘kicked and screamed’ to be stationed at Fort Stewart, Ga., where the 293rd Military Police Company was about to deploy.
“In Iraq, her platoon was in charge of the Diyala Province police station, where she and her soldiers lived amid constant mortar fire, trained Iraqi policemen and guarded a prison, squeezing in time to play basketball in the courtyard, where they gingerly avoided the barbed wire. In what she calls her worst moments, she had to kill insurgents.
“Now it was June 18, and her Humvee was barreling back to the station. Medics kept her alive until she was transported to a nearby base. There, she ordered the doctors, ‘You bastards better not cut my arm off.’ Then she passed out.
“Lieutenant Halfaker has no memories of what came next: a helicopter trip to Balad Air Base, 50 miles north of Baghdad, several operations at a military hospital in Landstuhl, Germany, and at Walter Reed, where she was in an induced coma.
“On June 30, the unfamiliar voice of a nurse urging her to open her eyes lifted the veil of fog. Lieutenant Halfaker woke up, thrashing, thinking she was lying next to the Humvee. Three nurses subdued her to remove her breathing tube. Her father came into view.
“‘Is my arm going to be O.K.?’ she remembered asking him.
“‘Honey, they already took your arm,’ Stephen Halfaker said.
“Doctors at Walter Reed had amputated it at the shoulder to save her…”
Refer to article for more about Halfaker and women in combat.