For many, the war with Iraq may seem like old news but thousands of U.S. soldiers are still overseas fighting everyday to protect our nation. One of those soldiers, Erica Gabel spent the last six months in Iraq, she returned to Lubbock last week. NewsChannel 11 sat down with her to see what the challenges were as a female soldier, away from her husband and family.
At only 20-years-old, Erica Gabel was surrounded by gunfire, stationed on enemy soil in the desert of Iraq and Kuwait. "There was fighting going on all the time. But you don't know how far you are, you can hear things but you don't know. We were surrounded. But we had protection by the infantry so we didn't have to fire but we still were at our posts, and did guard and carried our weapons all the same," said Erica Gabel.
Erica has been in the U.S. Army for three years. As part of the 92 Yankee Supply Specialist Unit, her job was at the communications post. She was responsible for all the food, water, weapons and supplies the men and women in her convoy needed. "If we were to get under attack, I was supposed to be the one to get us through it," said Gabel.
"I wanted her to be back. I didn't want her to be in that situation over there because it's scary. Its hard enough being apart, the long distance thing but with her being in the situation she was in where anything could happen any second, that just piled on top of it. When she first left, before they got settled in and could actually communicate the whole Jessica Lynch thing happened. And I mean a 20-year-old white female, it was very intense because I didn't have a clue, I didn't know what was going on and as far as I knew that was my wife," said Shawn Gabel, Erica's husband.
But it wasn't and Erica remained safe. The experiences she had and the images she saw however, she says she'll never forget. "The little kids on the side of the road, when we were doing our convoy's driving from Kuwait to Iraq, it was a 19 hour drive. And you would just see people out in the middle of nowhere with no shoes on, begging for food or water and you had no idea where they came from because you could see for miles and there were no houses, no cars. I don't think I'll ever be the same as I was, I'll definitely appreciate things a lot more," Erica Gabel said.
Erica's tour of active duty will be over in December, though she will continue serving her country as a Reservist. She says her next mission, will be to spend time with her husband, and start a family.