KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan — For many soldiers, a deployment to Afghanistan means early-morning foot patrols, long days wearing heavy gear and the possibility of engaging the enemy.
For Sgt. Margaret Kerchief, it’s about taking care of soldiers.
Kerchief, a Guyton native and a healthcare specialist, more commonly known as a combat medic, spent her deployment at the Warrior Recovery Center as a liaison officer.
“Before we deployed, we knew this was going to be a tasking for the brigade,” said Kerchief, a soldier with C Company, 501st Brigade Support Battalion, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division. “I had a really good medical base and some experience with this, so I was a really good fit for it.”
Throughout the deployment, Kerchief and her fellow liaison officers have seen more than 700 patients. Though she does not physically treat them, she is responsible for the patients’ accountability, keeping track of their appointments and making sure they are well taken care of. Out of all of the patients who have gone through the WRC, 83 percent have been returned to duty.
“You have got to have a lot of compassion for this job,” said Kerchief. “The empathy and understanding where they are coming from and what they are going through helps me process it later on.”
Kerchief admits to having seen it all, to include amputations, traumatic brain injuries, shrapnel wounds and sports injuries.
“There is a saying in the medical field that pain is the patient’s problem,” said Kerchief. “When you are treating them, it is okay because you are still saving their life. But when they come here, pain is our problem because we have to treat them.”
Despite the high operational tempo of the WRC, Kerchief helped turn the center into what it is today. Through donations and the Wounded Warrior Program, the WRC is able to provide all of the basic necessities to wounded soldiers.
“My mother always told me if you are going to use something, make sure you return it in at least the same condition, if not better,” said Kerchief. “I think one of the best things I was able to do was just to help with the functioning (of the center) and making sure our soldiers had access to anything and everything we had available for them. There’s no holding back.”
On average, soldiers are at the WRC from four days to two weeks. Many arrive via medical evacuation and have no supplies with them. Each soldier who goes through the WRC receives a transitional care package, which includes shirts, shorts, socks and other basic supplies.
Additionally, the WRC provides snacks, uniforms and nearly anything else the soldier may need while they are there. Through Kerchief’s diligence, along with donations, she was able to get the Wounded Warrior Program logo embossed on nearly all of the clothing given to the soldiers.
This is not Kerchief’s first deployment. She deployed with the brigade to Iraq several years ago, also dealing with injured soldiers. The medical field also runs in the family, with her dad serving 30 years as a family care doctor. Kerchief intends to make a career out of helping soldiers.
“I love my job,” said Kerchief. “I was here for the patients. I may not have had as much of a heavy hand in their treatment, but I definitely had an impact on them while they were being treated. I think this is one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever had.”