COMBAT MEDIC SIKANDER LODHI COMES HOME
Combat Medic Sikander Lodhi, Army Rank E5 recently visited his Uncle, Humayoon Lodhi in Downieville on his way back to El Paso, Texas, where he will be stationed for the next 18 months until redeployed back to Afghanistan. The unfortunate death of his father is why Sikander was able to visit his family. He was at the end of his recent tour in Afghanistan when he was notified of his father, Babar Lodhi’s death from an illness.
“Within thirty minutes I was told a helicopter would arrive in Combat Outpost (COP) Garda in eastern Afghanistan, which still has snow, and take me to Bagram Air Force Base. The Red Cross arranged flights for me fly from Kuwait to Washington D.C. and then on to San Francisco, “ said Sikander.
“In spite of the sadness of the reason for my flight home,” continued Sikander, “the flight was amazing, coming from combat I flew across America in the daytime, experiencing the “sea to shining sea”. Having a window seat on the six hour flight, I saw the Atlantic Ocean and then across the Plains of farmlands and crops to the Rockies and the Utah canyons, over the Sierra mountains and then the bay of the Pacific Ocean as we landed in San Francisco, as we were approaching San Francisco the music over the head set was “I Want to Come Home”, it sounds corny but it was so true”.
Sikander is married to Sadaf and has two sons Eman age 11 and Azaan, age 8. At age 40 he has been in America for 15 years after his father sponsored his citizenship in 1997. His father has been in the USA since 1987 on a business visa. Sikander’s mother died when he was 2 years old and his Aunt Nighat Lodhi raised him. Nighat was one of the pioneers of occupational therapy in Pakistan and the current Pakistan representative in the World Occupational Therapy Association; Sikander has two Bachelor degrees from Pakistan and worked as a Physical Therapist.
In 2000 Sikander returned to Pakistan for a visit with family and met his wife Sadaf through an arranged family marriage. He worked for World Bank, then Wachovia in San Diego. His two sons seemed to be obsessed with Navy pilots and were indicating their desire to follow this as a career.
“I met some recruiters to talk about this and after learning more decided it would be good for me, but at my age then, mid 30’s, I was too old for the Marines and so joined the Army. After Basic Training at Fort Benning, Georgia, I was sent to Fort Sam Houston, Texas to become a Combat Medic. Sikander just reenlisted for another 3-year tour of duty. He is now stationed near El Paso, Texas where his family lives. Although he is thinking of enlisting again after this 2nd three-year tour, “I am not sure what the future holds, I would like to become a Physician Assistant and am currently studying for a BA in Sports Medicine through online AMU.
Currently there are approximately 110,000 troops in Afghanistan and Sikander encourages paying attention to what is happening world wide as understanding of the issues is important for everyone, “I don’t agree with President George W. Bush’s policy that if you disagree with government actions you are not a Patriot,” he continued, “an educated America as to why we are in Afghanistan is a positive thing.”
Another issue important to Sikander is the future of our young people, “the Army is a great job, and I encourage them, once they have graduated from high school, to do a three year tour, there are benefits like the GI Bill which can be used for more education for yourself and families. You gain a sense of discipline, purpose and motivation. I think some mandatory service for young people to our country would be a good thing. We need to stay ahead of countries like India and China with ambitions to overtake our status as the best.
“My position as a Combat Medic is very rewarding,” concluded Sikander, “I help my fellow troops, can make a difference in their lives if they are injured and that makes me feel useful.” In addition to his medical skills he is fluent in URDU, the main Pakistan language and he understands and can speak some Pashtu and Dari, languages in Afghanistan.
Shortly after his return to the States he received the news of a fellow soldier in his unit. He sent this message; “I just lost a brother from my unit 3 days ago. I was suppose to be with him in the same truck on that convoy when it was hit by an IED on 27th June but I ended up leaving few days early. He was a great friend, soldier, leader and a loving father. His name is SGT James Skalberg, and I am attaching his picture too. I would really appreciate if you can honor him through your paper also. His son is not even 1 year old.”