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Brenda Burge Returns Home After Time Spent In Iraq

The Marion Record of Marion, South Dakota

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Brenda Burge was happy to be home with her husband Terry and family for the holidays after spending a two year commitment for medical support in Iraq. Brenda served as a physician assistant and the site lead at a clinic in northern Iraq. She has many memories that she will always cherish, but it has also changed how she feels about life. She tells just a small part of what she experienced and learned while there.

In December 2011 Brenda traveled to Florida to train for a medical service support contract. The medical support needs in Iraq have been in a gradual turnover since that time; first being provided by the US military and evolving into Department of State Medical Health Units. Brenda's employing organization was responsible for interim health care.

The initial training included a week of Arabic and the history of Iraq. This training, and other education continued until her deployment date in April 2012. They then flew her into Baghdad and then on to northern Iraq. There, Brenda completed most of her year and a half of the Iraq experience.

In northern Iraq, many of the citizens are Kurdish. The area is known as the IKR -Iraq Kurdistan Region. Where she worked it is fairly safe, however only 50 kilometers away in many directions, there still is much violence. Brenda said, "However, I was spared any acute violent actions."

"I was blessed with a safe place to work and live. God does answer prayers! The place she lived and worked in was in a predominately Christian neighborhood and was protected by cement T-walls and rolls of sharp barbed wire."

Brenda was responsible for setting up a clinic which would have the capacity to hold a critical patient for 48 hours or more. This was necessary in the event of violence or weather which would keep the clinic from being able to medically air evacuate a critical patient.

"I was site lead and spent most of the time organizing the clinic and caring for those living there. The clinic went from a humble beginning of only two small shelves with basic emergency medications to a fully functional clinic with lab capabilities similar to the US. This was quite a feat, as many medications and supplies were held during ground transport, and by the time I received them they were unusable from the heat."

Brenda said it was common to see temperatures in the 110's to 120's. This was also a problem as it overtaxed the generators and lead to some sweaty days! "I was thankful for the diesel fueled generators and I got used to the smell of dust and diesel also a problem as it overtaxed the generators and lead to some sweaty days! "I was thankful for the diesel fueled generators and I got used to the smell of dust and diesel fuel."

"When I left my position in August 2013,1 was given a luncheon and presented with medallions and certificates of appreciation. My administrative supervisor and the medical director from Baghdad traveled to northern Iraq for the presentation. I was told that I was the only person in the organization to be awarded those particular medals, which was something pretty special for me!"

While there, Brenda was also presented with the US flag that proudly flew over the streets where she worked during the months of June, July and part of August 2012. "That too, is something I will treasure."

After Brenda's last leave back to the US in August, she returned to Baghdad, rather than northern Iraq. She stayed there until the end of October. After Iraq, she spent time in Dubai, United Arab Emirates-viewing the tallest building and other sites. She also traveled to Colombo, Sri Lanka.

Brenda concludes, "It was an exciting two years, however I am glad to be home in Marion. Here we don't require guards and I am free to drive where I want to. I was truly blessed to have been able to be part of the medical support to those serving in Iraq."

"A special thanks to all of those who were praying for my safety while there."

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Original Publication Date: January 2, 2014

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