Fort Mill grad awarded medal in Afghanistan

Special to the Fort Mill TimesMay 7, 2013 

— Fort Mill High School graduate Ashleigh Sheets, now a 2nd Lt. in the U.S. Army, received the Army Commendation Medal on May 4 from Col. Kimo Gallahue and Command Sgt. Maj. Alan Hummel of the 4th IBCT command team.

Sheets and other soldiers from the 703rd Brigade Support Battalion, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division were awarded medals as part of a ceremony to celebrate the reopening of the Task Force Vanguard Wounded Warrior Center at Bagram Airfield.

The wounded warrior center allows soldiers, who are under medical care at Bagram, a safe place to relax, call home, watch a movie, or just share their experiences with a battle buddy.

Sheets, who attended and graduated from West Point after graduating from Fort Mill High School, is a TF Maintain medical liaison officer and works at the Staff Sgt. Heathe N. Craig Joint Theater Hospital at Bagram Airfield, where she receives patients, monitors their status and communicates their condition and progress to their units. She also has the responsibility to provide the soldiers with a place to stay while they are still under the care of a physician.

“It’s a chance to be with wounded soldiers and be able to help them talk to their families,” Sheets said.

When Sheets, who was a varsity soccer player at Fort Mill High and West Point, first saw the Wounded Warrior barracks, she immediately knew changes needed to be made to enhance the resources for the soldiers. Sheets decided to renovate the area to make it more welcoming for any soldier who would need to use the facility.

“I was going to try to make it look like a hospital and put curtains in between the bunks, and that was all I thought I was going to be able to do,” she said.

That was not the case. With the help of soldiers on ground and other supporters, Sheets took off with the project.

Sheets’ mother, Angela Sheets, was also a huge supporter throughout the project.

“My mom has been my battle buddy throughout the whole thing,” Ashleigh Sheets said.

Her mother helped organize donations from the community of Fort Mill, as well as organizations such as Boots and Boxes based in West Virginia, Operation Shoebox, Cell Phones for Soldiers, and the Bagram Airfield Red Cross. A little more after a month of starting the renovations, the center was ready to be revealed. A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held to commemorate the opening where Sheets and other soldiers and civilians who helped make the project a success received their awards.

Lt. Col. Nathan Swartz, the TF Maintain commander, spoke during the ceremony and praised Sheets fort her accomplishments and highlighted what the facility would provide for wounded warriors.

“This wounded warrior B-Hut facilitates their recovery and their return to their battle buddies while allowing them to be surrounded by their extended Army family, members of Task Force Vanguard,” he said.

At the conclusion of the ceremony, Gallahue, Sheets and Spc. Kevin Brown, a combat engineer and former patient of Sheets’, cut the ribbon signifying the reopening of the center. Those in attendance were then invited to tour the renovated facility and see the changes made to better the facility for future patients.

“I would not ever been able to do it without support from here, support back home,” Sheets said. “It’s just a big thanks – there are so many people to thank.”

U.S. Army Sgt. Sarah Bailey, 703rd BSB, 4th IBCT, 3rd Inf. Div., is the Unit Public Affairs Representative.

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