Hudson -- Think of a surgical staff working to save lives in a combat zone with only a sand-covered tent as an operating theater.

Imagine nearby explosions and the chattering cadence of machine gun fire interrupting meals, operations and sleep.

It may sound like an episode from the television show MASH, but it is very real.

Those are the conditions that Maj. Kevin Lowe, a U.S. Army Reserve doctor from Hudson, faced daily while working with a surgical team in Afghanistan.

"We were really out in the middle of nowhere," said Kevin, who was serving with the 932 Forward Surgical Team during his second tour in Afghanistan.

Kevin returned home to Hudson June 19. As a member of the Reserve, he is home, unless his orders change.

Kevin, 44, was stationed at Forward Operating Base Shank, which is known as "Rocket City" because of the constant barrage of rockets launched at the base. The base, about 50 miles from Kabul in the eastern part of Afghanistan and near the Pakistan border, is a hotbed of Taliban activity.

"It was kind of non-stop," Kevin said of the rockets. "The only offensive capabilities the Taliban has is to lob rockets into the base. The rockets were pretty poorly aimed and they were random. But they did that almost daily. It was really quite an experience."

Food choices were limited and the soldiers faced the same monotony each day during down time. Travel outside the base was a risk.

"As soon as the soldiers stepped outside the gates of the base they were in danger," Kevin said. "Several were hurt just outside the base. It was very dangerous."

Kevin and his wife, Nicole, have five children. The three youngest, Gretchen, 6, Beckitt, 4, and Cooper, 2, attend Hudson Montessori School. The couple also has two sons, Kevin Drake 22, and Spencer, 20.

Thanks to members of Hudson Montessori, the camp received reinforcements to fight the monotony: four large boxes filled with reading materials, snacks, games and a supply of much-needed coffee. The supplies were collected from staff and family members from the school.

"We wanted to support the family, and let him [Kevin] know we support what he is doing and thanking him for his service as well," said Michelle Lazor, the school's director of admissions. "We are such a strong family community here at the school."

The shipment helped lift the soldier's spirits and more, according to Kevin.

"It made a difference. It was very nice to get some treats, but more than that, to know we had not been forgotten and that there were people motivated enough to send something over."

The team, which treats injured soldiers from the front lines, needed the break, he said.

"We were very close to the battles, and the first hospital and doctors to see the kids after they were hurt," Kevin said.

Kevin's wife, Nicole, had no idea about the boxes.

"It was a wonderful surprise -- I didn't know anything about them doing it," she said. "That school is just amazing. They would reach out to help anyone they could. It was really heartfelt and made us feel like a strong community and school."

The school also sent meals home for the family once a week while Kevin was away, Nicole added.

"The Sunshine Committee at Hudson Montessori School is wonderful," Nicole said. Among the trail mix and magazines was another gift for Kevin, placed in one of the boxes, by Lazor -- an orange giraffe.

"When Kevin received it, he hid it in Afghanistan for Cooper, our youngest," Nicole said. "Cooper has a little rattle giraffe that he carries around everywhere. His name is Giraffey."

Each day Kevin would send an email to the family with the subject "Where in Afghanistan is Giraffey today?" Nicole said.

The giraffe would be hidden around the base, in pictures, for the children to find.

"The kids enjoyed finding the giraffe," Nicole said. "Closer to the end, Cooper started to hide his giraffe and make me send Kevin a picture."

Kevin downloaded the photograph and using an app, he circled Giraffey, put a note on the picture, and sent it back.

"He [Cooper] really liked trying to find that giraffe every day," Kevin said. "He understood I had the giraffe and that I was hiding it over there so he could find it."

As a thank you, Kevin sent the school a flag which has flown over the base hospital. The flag arrived June 25.

Kevin also sent a note of thanks to the school.

"I can't thank you enough for all of the kind wishes and goodies you sent to Afghanistan," Kevin wrote. "The nurses and medics here made quick use of all of the food, coffee, treats and reading material. More importantly, knowing that those at home support our efforts makes the isolation here easier to bear."

Kevin would like every soldier to receive support from those back home, even if just a card or card.

"There is a very real and scary war over there and it's ongoing. Those soldiers are doing a brave and dangerous job and it can be for them, isolated. They are in need of support," Kevin said.

Nicole and the three younger children met Kevin at Cleveland Hopkins Airport when he arrived June 19. The children were all dressed in Army outfits and gave him welcome home pictures.

"We are happy to have daddy home," Gretchen said. "I was so excited because I had not seen him for a while."

Cooper brought a special guest to greet Kevin as he stepped from plane. Clenched in the toddler's mouth, safe and sound, waiting for a hug from Kevin was the original Giraffey.

"Cooper now loves both giraffes, just not equally," Nicole added.

The little guy still loves his original Giraffey the best, she said.


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