Unsung Heros

Steve Ellis

Mr. Steve Ellis is the father of Army Corporal Jessica Ellis, a combat medic serving in Iraq, who was killed in action when an explosively formed projectile hit the armored vehicle she was riding in.

QUESTION: Why did your daughter join the Army?
STEVE: Well, Lynn and I have often asked that. I was actually down at a meeting in New Mexico and she called me on the cell phone from Bend, where she was in junior college and told me she had enlisted and I, of course, was a little surprised. You want to be very supportive of your children and I asked her, well have you talked to your mother? She said, yeah dad, I just called her and she asked me the same question, have you talked to dad? So, she said, I thought I’d give you a call. Jessie, always adventuresome, was looking for, you know, something new, where she could perhaps define herself differently than her older brother and younger sister. She wanted to be a medic from the get-go. Jessica, of course, is a very caring person. As she grew up, she cared a lot about others. Her mother, my wife, is a nurse and maybe she felt it was sort of her calling to do that. I think she had some thoughts that perhaps sometime even following in

her mother’s footsteps, being a nurse. I know she had talked about that.

QUESTION: What were your feelings when she decided to join?
STEVE: As a father, of a daughter, anxiety was my initial feeling. But I thought, all right, she wants to be a medic and I guess initially I didn’t envision her being in combat either. For some reason I had visions of her perhaps in a military hospital in Germany. So the first time I really felt some fear, as a father was when I found out she was going in the 101st Airborne Division. She had finished her combat medic training program at Fort Sam, Houston, and I remember her calling on the phone and she said, well, they’re talking to me about airborne. Because of her high fitness scores, she had very high fitness scores. She ran cross-country, track in high school and swam. Then she called us back and told us she was going to be going to Fort Campbell, Kentucky, 101st, and I thought, okay, 101st, you know, tip of the spear. I thought this is going to put her in harm’s way. It didn’t really register with her mother about what that unit was and how that unit goes where there’s trouble. And so, as a father, then I was worried about her.

QUESTION: How many times did she deploy?
STEVE: She deployed twice. She was killed about five months into her second deployment. Her first deployment wasn’t too long after she went to Fort Campbell. They were working primarily a very troubled area in Southwest Baghdad. She was assigned to a group that included combat engineers, so she would often accompany these route clearance missions. These combat engineers would go out on route clearance and look for these roadside bombs, Improvise Explosive Devices I believe they called them, and try to keep these routes clear. So, that was her primary job. Of course they had a clinic there in camp and Soldiers get sick like all of us do and she would do rotations through the clinic and other assignments, but, it’s my understanding that she primarily worked with combat engineers on her first tour, and then also on her second tour.

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