US Army, 1998-2008
Iraq, Kuwait, (3 tours), Ft. Eustis, Virginia
Kim has roots in California having been born in Alameda in 1980 to Elisa and Hal Case. Her siblings include one sister and one brother. Hal retired from the Navy after a twenty-year career and moved his family back to his home state of Ohio.
Kim grew up and graduated from Carey High School in 1998, where she played the flute in the marching band. She also served as the drum major for a year. When she was just seven years old, Kim watched a convoy of army trucks roll by. She thought the big trucks and soldiers in uniform were awesome. This stayed with her so much that one month and nine days after graduation Kim left for basic training at Ft. Leonard Wood, Missouri, having enlisted to train as a truck driver.
Basic training was coed and hard however the challenge motivated her, “I couldn’t get shown up by a guy!” AIT was a “blast” as they learned how to drive various trucks. Her first permanent duty station was to Camp Nimble, South Korea where she arrived in January of 1999. She was assigned to Bravo company of the 702ndMain Support Battalion. She was just 18 years old and had put on her PFC stripe. While in So. Korea she drove a five-ton truck in convoys bringing supplies and personnel to the DMZ. Kim spent a year in country.
She returned to the states to Ft. Eustis in Virginia joining the 551, a cargo transfer company. Here she learned to drive “915’s” and tractors pulling trailers. This was to be long term assignment, but 9/11 changed that.
During her stay at Ft. Eustis she met a fellow soldier, Mike Williams. In 2002 the couple welcomed their son, Tristan. Nine months later they would leave their infant son with his grandmother. “It was awful leaving him!”
Kim deployed with the 89thTransportation Company to Kuwait, eventually crossing into Iraq when the war began. Her unit arrived in Iraq on March 21, 2003, her 23rd birthday. Kim and company were welcomed day one with a scud attack which required putting on NBC gear. Their primary mission was line hauling supplies to the fluctuating frontline as troops advanced towards Baghdad. This was her world for the next seven and a half months.
Kim would return to Virginia, doing garrison duty for almost a year, when she received orders to again deploy. This time her unit would be stationed at Talil Air Base, Iraq where their main mission was supplying LSA Anaconda, Camp Victory, BIAP and Camp Echo to name a few. Now a 24-year-old buck sergeant Kim was put in charge of a team of four other soldiers. Her hardest memory occurred on August 5th, 2004 when convoy from her unit made a wrong turn which resulted in them being ambushed. A young male soldier was killed in the attack, leaving a young pregnant wife back home. Several others in her unit were also wounded on that mission.
“These were all my friends, we had just been hanging out together the night before!”
Kim returned home to her young son Tristan, now three, in 2005. He would join his mommy as she set up their home again at Ft. Eustis. This would only last a year as Kim’s unit was once again ordered to deploy to the Middle East. She did not handle this separation well, thinking “This might be the last time I see him.” A journalist took a picture of Kim, looking out the bus window, crying, as she left Tristan for the third time. It was printed on the front page of a local newspaper, resulting in her getting angry hate mail for not being tough. “Crying is not what Americans need to see”, one man wrote.
Kim deeply considered this a “roll of the dice” whether she would survive a third tour, driving in convoys, in front line situations, which was considered one of the top five most dangerous duties in the military. The enemy had mastered the use of IEDs, and constantly attacked convoys with RPG’s and small arms fire.
“Those next eleven and a half months were the longest of my life.”
When her unit completed its tour, they shipped back to Ft. Eustis with Kim still having a year left of her enlistment. She was joined in Virginia by son Tristan, then five years old. Kim had a degenerative back injury that had developed during her time in the Army and was no longer able to do her duties as a truck driver. She was medically discharged May of 2008 with the rank of Sergeant.
Kim and Tristan stayed in Virginia where she completed a two-year Associates degree as a Medical Assistant. She worked with a plastic surgeon for a time, bartended, became a data research analyst and even babysat to support herself and Tristan.
During this time Kim started displaying symptoms of PTSD: depression, flashbacks, seeing soldiers hiding in bushes. The VA offered therapy, but Kim stopped attending and, in her words, “I hit rock bottom.” Tristan returned to live with his father and Kim texted her sister Jenni in Ohio whom she was very close to, “Can I please come home?”
One week after significant back surgery in Virginia, Kim drove herself back to Ohio in time to attend her grandfather’s memorial service in 2013. Kim has worked hard since her return to better her life, including completing her two-year Associates degree for registered nursing at Brown Mackie.
Currently she is the corporate receptionist for a mold injection company. Her dream job is to be a mental health nurse at a VA hospital.
Tristan will be a junior in high school in Pennsylvania this next year. As Kim works to heal herself from a second recent back surgery and PTSD, she maintains a very close relationship with her son.
Kim has a strong support system with her sister Jenni.
Kim has a strong support system with her sister Jenni. In addition, Kim’s long-time boyfriend Ryan “loves me, helps me, is a constant in my life, deals with my crazy.”
Kim’s heart is still connected to “her soldiers” and the military. She put years into organizing and maintaining a project named, “Save the 22”, a site supported by AmVets to be a resource for veterans struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts. Kim credits this program with having saved 35 veterans to date, talking them out of walking into the darkness.
(The program is now a statewide AmVets program renamed “1 is Too Many”. There is a 24-hour hotline for veterans who need someone to talk to or are contemplating suicide.)
Kim continues to be one of the supporting “voices” making herself available to talk to 24/7.
“This gives me life and purpose, keeps my Army connections alive.”