Soldier was looking forward to return home

More than anything, Spc. Holly McGeogh, 19, wanted to go home.

She was weeks away by January 2004, and her missives home to suburban Detroit were dripping with anticipation and excitement. There were rumors of an exit from Iraq in March. McGeogh could see the homecoming play out grandly in her mind’s eye.

“It’s gonna be such an exciting day when I land in the States. It’s gonna be a day I will always remember,” she wrote to her family. “And when I get back to Michigan, that’s going to be amazing!! I’m gonna be so busy cuz u guys are going to be draggin’ me around like, ‘Look, she’s back!!!’ Well, please give me a couple days when I first get home so I can absorb it all.”

She ticked off the perks that awaited: her brother Robert’s promise that she could use his old Saturn, the strange feeling of driving something other than a Humvee, the delicious feel of her “big bed” back home in Taylor, Mich. “I really miss u all soooooo much. To be honest, if it wasn’t for u guys, I would have never been able to make it through all this.”

Her boyfriend, Spc. Sergio Cardenas, another soldier deployed at the same base in Tikrit, and their struggle to catch a few moments alone in the battle zone, were other key topics of her letters home. She was looking forward to the simple joy of a date with him at Taco Bell. “I’m sure u know what I mean, rite?”

The Internet was her lifeline to home, and she talked about how her platoon leader, Sgt. Eliu Miersandoval — “My daddy,” she called him — would cut her some time after guard duty to send e-mails.

In a letter e-mailed Jan. 5, McGeogh talked about a convoy mission. Troops spotted something that looked like it might be a roadside bomb, “so I stopped right away and backed up. The other two vehicles had already gone by it. We got out and pulled security. Then we called Charlie Company out to take a look.” It turned out to be nothing.

“I had felt a little embarrassed. But at least at the same time I knew that we had done the right thing,” she wrote.

The little story had a moral to it. McGeogh wanted her family to understand that the soldiers look out for each other in Iraq. “I felt that I wanted you to know.”

But the recurring theme throughout her letters was the trip home. By Jan. 28, she knew she would fly out in eight weeks. “The days have been going by sorta fast,” she wrote, “knock on wood, I don’t want them to start going by slow.”

During a convoy mission in Kirkuk two days later, no one saw the roadside bomb that went off near McGeogh’s Humvee. Two soldiers with her, one of them Miersandoval, were killed. And she became the first female service member from Michigan to die in Iraq.

USA TODAY


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