NORTH LIBERTY– Veterans Day was declared a national holiday- originally Armistice Day- in 1919, to mark the signing of the agreement that ended WWI.
But for veterans of war, it is never over.
Even those who serve in our nation’s military in times of peace know loss, hardship, and the strength of a fraternity that no amount of time or separation can weaken.
That familiarity with sacrifice was evident during the North Liberty American Legion Auxiliary’s annual Veterans Day dinner, held Nov. 15 at the South Slope Community Room in North Liberty.
Also evident was gratitude.
This year’s guest speaker was Army Pvt. 1st Class Combat Medic Vanessa Moore, just 20 years old. A graduate of Solon High School, Moore served on active duty in the Nuristan province of Afghanistan from November 2010 until July 2011. She earned an Army Achievement Medal and a Combat Medic Badge for her service, and remains on active duty until 2016.
Also speaking was Moore’s friend and fellow Combat Medic for the Red Bull Battalion in the 133rd C Company, Pvt. Cheyenne Griggs of Washington, on active duty until 2017.
Pvts. Moore and Griggs presented photos and video footage of their experience in the mountains of Afghanistan, including photographs of the aftermath of a rocket attack on one of the trucks they and other troops occupied.
“As a female in the Army, sometimes we had to overcome obstacles that males don’t have to,” said Moore. “A lot of guys assume because we’re females that we couldn’t hang, couldn’t climb mountains with them or keep up with them in marches. It was a proud moment to have the guys come up to us and say, ‘We’re so proud of you. You give females in the Army a good name.”
Moore described the people, military personnel, conditions and landscape of the part of Afghanistan where she was stationed.
“It is a life-changing experience to wake up to alarms and know you need to get into fighting position immediately,” she said. “It was a huge eye opener.”
Looking back now, it was terrifying, but I am grateful for the experiences I had.”
At one point during her deployment, Moore’s unit was attacked when one of the trucks in her convoy was hit by an IED (improvised explosive device). Moore earned her Combat Medical Badge in the incident.
“It got pretty dangerous along the mountain roads, and whenever something (explosive) went off, there was always a high risk of the truck rolling down the mountain,” Moore explained. In this explosion, the bomb blew the truck’s engine block. “Our gunner had a head and chin injury, but everyone came out pretty well.”
Moore also mentioned the welcome home she received when she returned to Iowa.
“We were so happy to come back into a community that is so supportive of veterans,” Moore said. “It’s because of the veterans like those in Vietnam that didn’t have that kind of support that we get the respect we do today, and it feels awesome.”
It is those experiences, said follow-up speaker retired Army Maj. Gen. Robert Sentman, that stick with soldiers forever.
“Vanessa has now joined the group that won’t take a million dollars for what they’ve seen, and won’t give five cents to do it all over again,” Sentman said.