Long family history of military service readies paramedic for duty
U.S. Navy reservist Krista Schade didn't know that the attack on Iraq had begun until she arrived in San Diego on Wednesday night to receive what likely will be orders to the Middle East.
The Portland woman discovered that war had broken out when she telephoned her boyfriend, Pete Godon.
'I told her we'd gone to war,' he said from his home in Portland. 'She was pretty upset. She doesn't want to go to war. Obviously, she's going to be smack-dab in the middle of it.'
At Schade's going-away party, held a day before President Bush's announcement made her assignment to the war zone a virtual certainty, Godon summarized how it felt to have her ship out.
'I don't know where she's going,' he said. 'I don't know when she'll be back. I don't know whether we'll be able to talk to each other. I support her, but I'm not so sure where I am on going to war.'
It was a variation on a theme that Schade and her father, whose family has a long history of military service, also expressed at her farewell party Tuesday: pride in her ability to serve, tempered by some reservations about the war and fear of what lies ahead.
Schade, 29, is temporarily assigned to the U.S. Marine Corps' Camp Pendleton in California. But her unit, the Navy's 4th Medical Battalion, has orders to catch up with the First Marine Expeditionary Force on March 29. Schade said her initial orders are for 12 months, though she believes she could be gone as long as two years.
The Marines are in Kuwait City, Kuwait, where, on Wednesday, a British reporter saw them loading their gear into Humvees, to 'lead the drive toward Baghdad.'
Although Schade, a firefighter and paramedic with the Portland Fire Bureau, had less than a week's notice to prepare for deployment, it is an event for which she has, in effect, prepared for her whole life.
Her grandfather Walter Bradford Schade Jr. of Portland roomed with former Sen. Mark Hatfield, R-Ore., during military training at Willamette University and was a Navy captain during World War II.
Her father, David Schade of Oregon City, served in various branches of the reserves for 30 years, including during Vietnam and Operation Desert Storm. Her paternal uncle is a major in the Air Force Reserves.
After graduating from Canby Union High School, Krista Schade enlisted in 1992 and served briefly with her father.
Father feels pride, fear
Reservists like Schade are regular military, unlike National Guard units that are under the control of their state's governor except in wartime. She and other reservists serve one weekend a month and two weeks a year unless they are deployed, in which case they get the same pay and benefits as regular soldiers.
'I didn't come into the Navy for the benefits,' Schade said quietly. 'It was something I wanted to do. But they tell you that in a 20-year Navy career, you're likely to see war.'
If Schade is assigned to the Middle East, she will be part of a shock and trauma platoon. 'It's like a MASH unit,' she said, referring to the Korean War-era 'tent city' field hospital portrayed in the television show of the same name.
Her job will be to stabilize wounded military personnel, triage them and prepare them for evacuation to a better medical facility.
Her father, who worked at a Navy hospital in Guam during the Vietnam War, is proud of his daughter's medical skills and the use to which she intends to put them, if necessary.
'The military side of me is very proud of her,' David Schade said. 'The parent side is scared to death. I'd be very happy if she stayed at Camp Pendleton.'
David Schade said his only reservation about a U.S.-led war against Iraq is the failure of the United States and its allies to gain widespread world support for it. But he believes that Saddam Hussein 'had a hand,' directly or indirectly, in the bombing of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
'He would take out Grand Coulee Dam, if he could,' he said. 'He has no scruples at all. I ask myself, if not us, who? If not now, when?'
Uncertainty heightens worry
Godon, who said he supported both Desert Storm and the war in Afghanistan, said he is more ambivalent about a war against Iraq.
'Desert Storm was warranted, and we (only) lost about 300 people,' said Godon, a firefighter and paramedic who works for Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue. 'I think this time will be a lot worse.'
Some of his vacillation stems from his two-year relationship with Schade, who began living with him in Portland last month. Besides their jobs, they have a shared interest in the outdoors and athletic pursuits.
For example, Schade got the word to report to Camp Pendleton while participating March 15 in the Seattle Stair Climb, in which firefighters climb 69 floors in full gear and breathing apparatus.
Schade and Godon had been planning to raft down the Grand Canyon together next month. 'It's a trip of a lifetime,' Godon said. 'It takes 20 years to get on the list.' Godon said he'll do the trip without Schade.
Meanwhile, Schade said she'll be observing her 30th birthday Ñ somewhere.
'It's frustrating. People want to know where I'm going, and I can't tell 'em,' said Schade, who doesn't know her ultimate destination at this point. 'People don't want to see me in the desert, by any means. But it's what I was trained to do.'
'It's hard on him,' she said, referring to Godon, sitting in the background at the farewell party that drew several dozen well-wishers. 'He's willing to support me, but the thought of me being gone one to two years is difficult.'
Despite her training and eagerness to serve, Schade acknowledges having mixed emotions:
'I don't want to leave my family. I don't want to leave Pete behind. We both want it to last, but you don't know. It's harder than I thought it would be.'