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Tiffany served in the Army for ten and a half years. While she was in the Army, she was a logistician and she deployed to Iraq twice. She had to overcome adversity many times throughout her military career. She left the military with her master’s degree using Tuition Assistance while on active duty and this past December graduated with her second master’s degree using her GI Bill. Tiffany decided to join the military because she felt lost and didn’t know what she wanted to do. Although she had been a good student in high school, she didn’t want to have her parents pay for college without her knowing what she wanted to do. So, she decided to join the Army. After she had committed to the Army the one school she had applied to came back with a scholarship upon her acceptance. She was hoping she could get out of her military commitment and go to college instead. But her parents told her she had already committed to the Army and needed to fulfill her commitment. So off to boot camp she went.
Not long after being in the Army, she deployed to Kuwait for the initial invasion of Iraq.
While waiting for the invasion to take place they were in Iraq and a Non-Commissioned Officer told her that they were waiting to go to war. She couldn’t believe it. It seemed like someone would have told her before it. It wasn’t until she saw the scud missiles in Iraq that everything came together and she realized she might not come home. As they pushed into Iraq, she expected they would enter the war and there would be firefights and bullets. But crossing the border was uneventful and instead, their days were full of driving. They were always hot, always dirty, and almost always on the move. They lived in their vehicles and kept pushing forward.
About a year and a half after she deployed to Iraq she went back to Iraq.
This time there were camps built up and since she went back to almost the same location, she could see how much change had happened since she had left. In 2003 you had your vehicle and your uniform, but it wasn’t like that the second trip. There were showers, you had a room, there were internet cafes, tents to call home, and more. Another big change between 2003 and 2005 was how the war was being fought. They hadn’t seen a lot of combat in their first-round while they had been looking for landmines in 2003. In 2005, Improvised Explosive Devices, suicide bombers, and convoy ambushes were a real threat. The war had evolved. The threat was amplified. She watched the evolution of the war. As the military tried to respond to the threat. Going from Humvees with no armor to trying to armor the Humvees, but sometimes causing more damage and having sandbags as protection. The war progressed in such a way and eventually, the military was able to create a vehicle that added more protection. And if you have ever seen a side by side comparison of a Humvee and a Mine Resistant Ambush Protection (MRAP) vehicle you can understand why the change was so important and necessary to fight the war.
Another challenge she faced was a helicopter crash where she didn’t allow herself to grieve. She really struggled for years after the incident happened. Although she wasn’t on the helicopter flight, she was part of the unit and knew the people who died. She felt guilty for living and she felt guilty for struggling with the deaths of the people she knew who passed. We talked about the importance of getting mental health help along the way and for military members to process all the different experiences they go through. It may have happened years ago, but if you are struggling you can and should get help.