(New York Post) Heidi Radkiewicz writes of her unusual marriage We were buddies on the battlefield and were buddies in real life too. This is one hell of a honeymoon" Heidi Radkiewicz thought to herself as she opened fire on a farmhouse a few miles away from the Baghdad Airport. She and the rest of her convoy of Army National Guardsmen were under fire from insurgents. As she loaded a fresh magazine into her rifle she caught sight of her husband Jake who was a few trucks behind her and kept shooting. Being a woman in combat is unusual but being a married woman deployed alongside her husband even more so. In Honeymoon in Baghdad" Radkiewicz tells the strange story of her first few months of marriage which took place in military camps in the middle of Iraq and consisted of hours of boredom suffocating heat frequent ambushes by insurgents and clandestine trysts with Jake whenever the two could find some privacy. It also created an unbreakable bond with her new husband. I wanted to write this book because Id never heard of a married couple who fought in a combat zone together" says Radkiewicz now a stay-at-home mom whose book by Redwood Publishing is for sale on Amazon through their Kindle Direct Publishing platform. Radkiewicz who is now 38 grew up in a small farm town in Iowa and was always into fitness. Mostly because she didnt like school and didnt know what else to do she signed up with the National Guard while in college. At a drill weekend in Laramie Wyo. she met Jake and nine months later he proposed. A few weeks after their courthouse wedding in 2002 they got the call. They were shipping out. Together. One night just after arriving at Camp Safir in Kuwait she and Jake who were sleeping next to one another on the floor flagrantly disregarded the delicate sensibilities of our fellow soldiers and under cover of darkness got pleasantly busy. We did try to hold off until everyone was asleep but no system is perfect." They were busted by a fellow soldier who called them out in front of all the other soldiers sleeping next to them. Before joining up that sort of thing would have mortified me. But Army life strips all that anxiety and social pressure away" she writes. One night the couple set up a quasi-romantic water-bottle shower for themselves by stringing ponchos around the catwalk of Jakes truck. It was a moment of private intimate companionship" she writes. Both of us trying to make the most of our time together . . . He bent to kiss me as I turned to put my arms around him. That was when the flash went off." Another soldier had climbed on top of their shower contraption and was snapping away. Jake wasnt having it. He demanded an apology. When none came he smashed the soldiers new camera. Come on man you guys already get to be with each other I just have myself. How is that fair?" the offending soldier complained. Heidi and Jake were married in 2002 after meeting in the National Guard.Picasa Heidi and Jake tried to be discreet. But every day she writes she felt grateful to be fighting alongside her husband. She knew some people would have gone crazy having their spouse with them all day under such trying circumstances but she didnt know any different and was so grateful for the bond it gave them. So many soldiers told me they could never do this with their spouse. We were like How could you not? " You know" Jake said to her one day when they were hand-washing their laundry at Camp Anaconda north of Baghdad this isnt the traditional way people spend their honeymoon but youve got to admit its kind of cool being here together. How many husbands and wives get to experience something like this? I mean after this what could life possibly throw at us that we cant handle?" Their day-to-day duties in Iraq consisted mostly of convoying supplies between Camp Anaconda and Camp Cedar outside Nasiriyah. They were constantly under attack from insurgents with AK-47s RPGs roadside bombs and mortars. Luckily no one in their company sustained major injuries; the most serious issue was someone who was sent home from a sand-flea infection. But the boredom was almost as deadly as the enemy fire. The hours crawled by more slowly every day. We spent a lot of time playing Risk and doing equipment maintenance generally losing our minds with the boredom and the waiting" she writes. On a mission to Baghdad one day Radkiewicz got an upset stomach. Nothing too painful but as the semi-truck barreled on she asked the sergeant driving when theyd be at the next rest stop. Not for 7000 miles. She asked the sergeant what to do and he told her shed have to take care of things in the truck. Using an empty MRE bag while the sergeant sang Sweet Home Alabama" at the top of his lungs to distract her she took care of business. It wasnt the only time shed be stuck in that situation and she came to get used to it she says. That scene is about as real as it gets" Radkiewicz says now. It doesnt get more personal than the bathroom. But its a war and st happens" she says with her usual candor. Heidi and Jake while stationed in Baghdad. All was well when they reached the base and she could tell her husband about her mortifying experience. That night we set up our cot on top of his trailer and watched the stars shift over the ruins of the base. I was happy and relieved to have my husband sleeping by my side." Eventually the couple did get to take a real honeymoon they went to the German military resort Garmisch-Partenkirchen where Heidi found out she was two months pregnant. Counting back she realized her son was most likely conceived during a tryst in a semi-truck. We would find spots wherever we could" she laughed. It meant she had to be sent home immediately leaving her husband behind which was excruciating she says. We were best friends. Battle buddies. We were everything to each other." A few days later they said goodbye to each other at a camp in Kuwait. I was able to hold it together all day and then when I was told by the higher-ups that it was time to go I hugged him and started bawling. Watching him get smaller out of the cars window I was crying uncontrollably. I didnt know if I would ever see him again and I was carrying our child" she says. Jake managed not to cry but he told Heidi later that it was killing him inside. Of all the hard things that we had been through together the ambushes the anxiety the heat the bugs this was by far the hardest." But Jake had his mission and she had hers to give birth to a healthy baby. She went back to Iowa to stay with her folks and thats when the real terror began. While she was in Iraq she put a lot of effort into finding ways to stay positive to avoid focusing on the misery paranoia and violence I experienced every day" she writes. Id built up a mental shield designed to keep the person I was underneath all that danger safe. And that shield wasnt going away anytime soon. In fact when I got home that shield went on the offensive. It mistook innocuous things for dangers and turned the reflexive responses Id developed overseas into panic over nothing." She couldnt be around large groups because she was afraid someone was going to shoot her. Trash by the side of the road became a bomb. Every underpass was a place to hide insurgents" she writes. I knew that I was safe. But that little voice in the back of my mind telling me to look for every possible danger never really went away." She was desperately worried about Jake always hoping for a call from him. She kept having vivid nightmares of people she loved being killed in combat. She couldnt relate to other people and the mundane problems of daily life after what shed just been through. There were days in the beginning of raising a family when I might have preferred to be back in Iraq. Jake would call once a week and whenever he had access to email he would write a few times a week. I lived for those communications" she says. She had developed a serious case of PTSD and eventually would have to go to the VA hospital for antidepressants which lessened the severity of her symptoms but didnt remove them entirely. Jake was able to take a leave of absence to be with her for the birth of his son. The little boy was delivered by C-section. Heidi writes that Jake said the birth was like something out of a horror movie watching the doctors pull out my organs hose them down and then stuff them back inside all while I was anesthetized and cracking jokes and telling stories." They named their son Wyatt which means Little Warrior" according to the baby book she consulted. The name was so appropriate to the circumstances of his conception" she writes. When Jake now 39 finally came home for good 10 months after Heidi his mission declared complete he had his own struggles with PTSD. One day youre driving down the road with your rifle locked and loaded and pointed out the window the next day you are at the drive-through at McDonalds" says Jake. By then Heidi was feeling better and she was able to help Jake deal with the transition to home life. Other spouses dont have the opportunity to go through this together like we did" she says. Normally the soldiers wife doesnt have any idea what her husband has been through." Eighteen months after Jake came home their daughter Summer was born. While Jake went back to school and began working full-time as a software developer to take care of his family Heidi took care of the kids who are now 12 and 14. The family now lives outside Chicago. There were days in the beginning of raising a family when I might have preferred to be back in Iraq" she says. But we thought of parenting like it was a mission. We had our wartime missions and our civilian missions. After what we went through we knew how to work together as a team. We were buddies on the battlefield and were buddies in life too." Source Page
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