Ashley Crabb, 23, spent time at an aid station and on the front line with her unit, the Headquarters, Headquarters Company, Second Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 1st Cavalry, as a medic.
"It was really hard, and rough on the family. I'm really close with my family," Crabb told The Brazil Times.
She was deployed immediately after graduation from combat school. Gary Crabb, Ashley's dad, purchased a "Proud Army Dad" hat when the family attended the ceremony.
"It's meant a lot -- following in my family's shoes. My grandpa, great-grandpa and dad were in the service," Crabb said about her tour of duty. Gary added that Ashley's grandfather and great-grandfather would be extremely proud of her.
Crabb said she was proud that she was one of a very few female medics.
"There were a lot of males. I was the only (woman) out on patrols. It felt really good to help people and do my job, and show the guys a woman can do the job," she said.
Her unit set up aid stations in Iraqi communities, and would treat children and adults for various health issues. That was the best part of her service.
She said the hardest part was not being able to help her fellow soldiers who didn't make it.
Crabb had a large support group here in Clay County. She contacted her family over the internet every chance she got.
The frequent contact helped her family, too. Gary and Ashley's mom, Terri, said they monitored the computer every chance they had, in case Ashley had tried to get through.
The Crabb family also relied on friends and their church for support.
Gary said Ashley was on their church prayer list and he received a lot of encouragement from his co-workers in Putnamville.
A happy surprise for the family came when Ashley's cousin, Josh, surprised her with a phone call.
Josh, who is a Marine, was called to the United States Embassy, which was right down the street from where Crabb was stationed. Her commander gave her an escort to the embassy, and she and Josh were able to spend about two hours together.
"That was the greatest thing that happened over there," Crabb said.
Gary said the family received a lot of pictures from the impromptu meeting.
Crabb's unit returned to the U.S. in January, and she flew directly to Ohio to see her baby niece, who had been born while she was in Iraq.
At the beginning of February, she returned to Indiana, and has been spending time with her family and her Border Collie, Buster, since.
But her time at home is coming to an end. Crabb is returning to Fort Hood, Texas, where the 1st Cavalry is based, Feb. 28. She said her unit has already received orders that they will be sent back to Iraq February 2009.
Gary said he is worried for Ashley, but not as much as the first deployment because, "she knows what she's going into this time."
Although Crabb never saw herself in the military before signing up for active duty, she believes in what the Army is trying to accomplish.
Crabb wants the community to know, "All in all, it's rough being away, over there, but we're helping the Iraqi community a lot. We've accomplished a lot. The violence has gone down. We're over there for a reason, and there is a lot being accomplished."