Dickens awarded Bronze Star

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 30, 2005

AHOSKIE – Jesse Dickens isn’t the type that likes to be praised for his accomplishments.

Instead the Platoon Sergeant of the HHC 1st Battalion, 120th Infantry would rather go back to his classroom and teach Hertford County High School students the significance of the country he loves.

But Dickens was awarded the Bronze Star after his service in Iraq for his country and family and friends know this award is nothing to be taken lightly.

Dickens was put in charge of the medical station for his platoon and took on various supervisor and administration roles in Iraq.

Before his group was deployed overseas, Dickens and his platoon went through training in Georgia where he got to know many of the men he would be spending the next 11 months of his life with.

&uot;Most of us were fillers,&uot; Dickens said, &uot;so we didn’t really know the skill levels of the people in our platoon.&uot;

Dickens wasn’t assigned to be in the medical group until he arrived in Iraq, at which point the assignment came as a bit of surprise to him.

&uot;I was kind of thrown in to the medical group when I got to Iraq,&uot; Dickens said. &uot;The soldiers of my group didn’t really want me to leave, but after conferring with my command I took the position.&uot;

The position included a wide array of assignments, including taking care of the sick, holding medical records, any kind of medical support, sending medics out onto the field, taking inventories of medical supplies, evacuating those seriously injured and many other responsibilities.

Under Dickens’ leadership there was a well-trained medic present for every casualty in his Task Force.

The boosting of morale was also a task Dickens took to heart, as listed on the recommendation for his award was that he increased the level of morale within his platoon and decreased the amount of combat stress the soldiers had.

But one of the most important roles, and the one that was arguably most influential in his award, was Dickens’ task of training medics for the new Iraqi National Guard.

&uot;The toughest part of that assignment was the language barrier,&uot; Dickens said. &uot;But they were really enthusiastic about the medical skills they were learning and really relished the opportunity.&uot;

Besides his duties as leader of the medical team, Dickens took on the role of a fatherly figure to many in his platoon.

&uot;The soldiers really looked to me for advice and counseling and seemed to have a lot of trust in me,&uot; Dickens said. &uot;They brought their personal concerns to me, whether they be family, financial or even the stresses of war that we all were experiencing.&uot;

Dickens was privileged enough to have 15 former students of his with him in Iraq, making their relationship one that had a history and a kinship to it.

&uot;It was really like a family because we all resided in one confine, experiencing the same stresses and sleepless nights.&uot;

Dickens returned from Iraq January 9 and hopes to return to HCHS in August, depending upon the needs of the school system.

&uot;I feel I need to pick up where I left off because of my love for the young people and the system itself,&uot; Dickens said. &uot;When the military took me away, I was initially dismayed, but knew I had a commitment.&uot;

&uot;But I still feel I have a lot to offer Hertford County and the surrounding community.&uot;

But for the summer, Dickens is content to take a break – one that is well earned, proven by the testimonies of his men and the award he received.

&uot;I am elated by the honor of this award, because it is such a high award with a very limited number being given out,&uot; Dickens said. &uot;I was surprised that I got it at first, because I was just fulfilling my commitment.&uot;

After being overseas only five months ago, Dickens is still kind of numb to many things back in his beloved country, but is grateful for the honor bestowed upon him at the end of his military career.

&uot;It’s a timely award because I am now retiring from military service,&uot; Dickens said. &uot;I just did what I was supposed to do and what this award means to me is that I just did the right thing when I needed to.&uot;