Captain Scotty Smiley made American history while serving in the military. The book Hope Unseen: The Story of the U.S. Army's First Blind Active-Duty Officer tells his story. This book excerpt comes from chapter 8.
I know Jeff trusted me as a leader as well as a friend. He believed in my character. If my men spent two days at an outpost with no latrine, no hot chow, and constant boredom, I would be there with them. When the inaugural Iraqi elections came around in early 2005, Captain Van Antwerp had assigned my platoon an extremely difficult mission. He charged us with establishing and securing a voting site on the outskirts of Mosul in one of the province’s most violent locations. It was a built-up area, accessible only by foot. If an enemy attacked, he would be difficult to pursue. But with minimal guidance we secured the area and thousands of Iraqis voted democratically and lived to bear the fruits of their political participation.
Sure, I was kind of a black-and-white thinker. My strength of conviction manifested itself, at times, as an inability (or unwillingness) to understand nuance. My whole life had been framed in terms of good and evil. Jeff had to beat that out of me a bit. He did, because I wanted to learn from him. The more I fell in love with the army, the more I wanted to learn and do. Jeff was a great teacher.
Captain Van joked, months after the injury, that the only noncommissioned officer who ever had a problem with me was this one guy who complained all the time. He was not really a bad guy—the sergeant—but I didn’t tolerate complaining. I just didn’t do glass-halfempty—even if the glass only had a drop left.
As Jeff waited at the hospital, thinking over what he later told me were some of our most important memories, a soldier from my platoon tapped him on the shoulder. I had been unconscious for a few hours now, temporarily staying at the field hospital in Mosul before the doctor finished up his assessment and processed me for transport. Once I was ready, Jeff and our company first sergeant loaded me and the ventilation tube that snaked down my mouth onto a Black Hawk helicopter that would shuttle me to Balad, Iraq, for surgery. Jeff patted my arm, turned, ducked, and cleared the radius of the Black Hawk’s rotor. The helicopter lifted into the air, and just like that my combat tour was complete.
Jeff returned to the battalion headquarters, grabbed the satellite phone, and walked out behind the battalion headquarters shack to call Tiffany.
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