WARs of Choice: Reality Check
Sgt. Serena Hayden, a public affairs specialist deployed to Iraq from 2006 to 2008, poses with the niece of Diyala province Gov. Ra'ad Hameed Al-Mula Jowad Al-Tamimi during a visit to his house. But Hayden's deployment was hardly idyllic, and she has sought treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder, which has been denied so far.
July 14, 2010 The dazzling smile Serena Hayden flashes in photographs masks the horrors of war she witnessed in Iraq.
She was a public affairs specialist, a job that some dismiss as cushy. Done right, however, the job means sharing the risks borne by combat soldiers. After all, you can't document a war if you're not in it.
As the American-Statesman's Jeremy Schwartz reported in Wednesday's editions, Hayden lives with guilt she feels about the death of a photojournalist. She had arranged for the vistor to ride in a convoy. The convoy ended up getting attacked, and the journalist was killed.
"I sat curled up next to his body bag, crying and crying because of the guilt I felt," she said. "I still to this day feel responsible. I don't know when it's ever going to end or get better."
While in Iraq, Hayden — who served with the 1st Cavalry Division — rode in convoys that were always targets for enemy attacks or roadside bombs. She came under fire. She covered funerals.
"We lost 110 soldiers in our brigade," she said. "You go to 110 funerals in a year and see if it doesn't affect you." Continued