“Keep your voice down!” she hissed. “What is it?” One of the men, the one who had yelled out, silently pointed down steep slope of the incline that the hospital rested on. Jean squinted through the darkness and saw flickers of movement, flashes of light, just the faintest whisper of voices drifting upward on the night air. And she saw the weapons. The rifles would have made most people’s heart wrench with fear, but to Jean Comlish, a commander of the Navy in the Afghan War, weapons, blood, and death were nothing new. She had first arrived as part of the Navy Nurse Corps, and during her first year pleaded to the heavens every night to let her go home, somehow, before she went mad from all of the death and destruction - all the soldiers that she hadn’t been able to keep alive. But, little by little, as she advanced in ranking, her heart had hardened - enough that now, she felt only a small flutter of worry as she gazed down at the darkening hillside.
The soldiers waited in silence for a long amount of time. The night wind was unusually frigid, but, made of steel inside and out, they did not shiver. Jean stood in the center of their line, completely still, simply waiting. It would begin soon enough. There was no need to rush. And suddenly, there was a crack - and a ball of fire seemed to explode into the night. Jean never said a word. She simply signaled sharply, and the soldiers rushed forward, returning fire. Jean hung back for a moment, then launched in. If these men and women all die, she thought grimly, then I will die with them.
The battle raged on, into the night, but Jean still stood as the sky began to lighten. The gunfire still exploded through the area, but it was fewer and further between. Finally, as the sky grew light enough to see without artificial light, Jean yelled out, “End!” her voice hoarse from a night of no talking and all shooting. She wasn’t sure how many she had wounded - possibly killed. The battle had simply been a blur, a horrific fight in the dark, but she was still standing. However, as her soldiers gathered around her, some trembling, some with their heads down in awful grief, she saw that some were not. She took a deep breath, fighting back the wave of terrible nausea and sadness that threatened to crash over her. This was not the time. Right now, she had to be strong.
“Treat your wounds, help me gather the dead-” suddenly, she heard a sound from behind the hospital. Spinning quickly on her heel, she saw a group of the enemy soldiers rushing toward it. She thought, they must have snuck around!! and then her mind went clear. Not thinking, only moving, she tore towards the enemy, firing her gun as quickly as she could, and behind her, the other soldiers did the same. As they neared the enemy, they saw one man stoop and place something near the doorstep of the building. Jean didn’t even need to look at it to know, whatever it was, how much damage it would cause. Her breaths swallowed, then deepened with determination. All of the emotion that she had contained inside her for years suddenly burst out, like a dam breaking in her heart, as in her mind she screamed, They will not take this hospital!!!!
Jean plowed through the enemy, picked up the device, and ran. She felt the ground fall away under her, felt the dawn air whistling past her, as she raced away as fast as she possibly could. When she was a great ways away, she wound up her arm, and, as the glare of the golden-red sunrise blinded her, she threw the device as far away as she could go. The ground still shook with the explosion, and debris went flying. She leapt down, onto her stomach, and covered her head. When she could no longer feel the ferocious heat or the crash of falling rocks or trees, she stood up shakily. The hospital stood intact. It’s safe. The people are safe. I saved them.
Suddenly, she heard fast footsteps, and saw, to her horror, a few of the surviving enemy soldiers running away from her men - but towards her. As they drew closer, she knew that she wouldn’t be able to fight, but she held her ground anyway, bracing herself. Even if I don’t come back, I will be with you…...She saw the eyes of the man in the lead, saw him raise his arm, and, unsure whether she would be shot or knocked out, and attempted to duck - but there came a hard, blow, she heard something crack, and, her black hair spilling around her, she fell to the ground and knew no more.
-It is unknown if Jean Cromlish became a prisoner of war or not - or whether she is still alive. I do not know what really happened while she was stationed in Croatia that led to her disappearance, but I hoped to tell the story of a brave, hardened woman that was prepared to risk all for the lives of others.