HAMPTON, Va. - Sitting in the recruiter’s office while preparing to sign on the dotted line, think back to what got you here. Was it just one profound moment, or was it more?
Kyle was 24 years old, in college and working three jobs. Financial aid was not an option if he wanted to continue his education, unless he wanted to take out student loans. That’s when he started considering other options, and walked into the recruiter’s office.
It was his decision.
“I was proud, and I was happy,” said Senior Airman Kyle Harvey, Air Combat Command Communication Support Squadron operations support technician. “I signed the dotted line because I knew that I had one life and at least for this part of it I wanted to serve my country.”
However, his signature came with misgivings.
“At the time, when I signed the papers, I was really nervous about getting deployed,” said Harvey. “I didn’t want to go to Afghanistan. I didn’t want to go to Iraq. I was deathly afraid of going overseas.”
After going through basic training and technical school, Harvey’s first and only duty station was Langley Air Force Base. It was here where Harvey grew into the Airman he is today, taking in the experiences and learning what he could.
About a year and a half into Harvey’s career, he felt ready to deploy. All it took was talking to people who had been there.
“I was slated for a deployment to Afghanistan,” said Harvey. “The last week before I was supposed to leave for combat training, I went home on leave and contracted myocarditis [inflammation of the heart muscle] and pericarditis [swelling and irritation of the pericardium, a thin sac-like membrane that surrounds the heart] secondary to the small pox vaccine.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the vaccine is made from a virus called vaccinia, which is a “pox”-type virus related to smallpox and the smallpox vaccine contains the “live” vaccinia virus.
Harvey’s unit had to send someone else from his squadron to take his place.
“You never know when a task will drop. If we have to task someone at the last minute, they may not be as mentally prepared to go as someone who has had time,” said Master Sgt. Alan Palazo, Air Combat Command Communications Support knowledge enabling flight chief.
The news hit Harvey hard.
“I was really upset,” said Harvey. “I really wanted to be a part of that brotherhood of people who have been over there and who have served over there.”
It took weeks for Harvey to physically recover from the damage his heart sustained. He was limited in his daily activities, including driving.
“I was upset that I wasn’t deploying; however, it was the least of my worries at the time,” said Harvey.
The loss of the deployment itself was not on Harvey’s emotional radar, as the concern for his medical condition dwarfed any other disappointment.
“I was more worried about recovery and not getting medically discharged,” said Harvey.
Through this troubling time in Harvey’s life, he had friends who helped him through.
“I can’t state enough how wonderful it is to have good friends to take care of you,” said Harvey. “I felt a lot of guilt about ‘letting people down’ and the unfortunate situation of the Airman who had to go in my place on such a short notice. Dealing with that can be hard.”
Harvey has not had another opportunity, in the almost four years of serving, to deploy again. He gives the advice to other Airmen who are scared to deploy by first asking them why they are afraid. With no experience of his own, Harvey suggests talking with someone who has deployed.
“At the end of the day the best we can do is talk to them and try to make them feel better,” said Harvey.
With the help of friends, family and coworkers, Harvey was able to make a full recovery and remain in the Air Force.
“It was ironic that a vaccine designed to protect my life cornered me up against my mortality,” said Harvey. “If something designed to help me can kill me, maybe I shouldn’t be so afraid to try something risky. Sometimes you have to have faith and jump in order to fly.”