Unsung Heros

Leigh Ann Hester

Sergeant Leigh Ann Hester served in the Army National Guard and became the first woman to receive the Silver Star for valor since World War II. In Iraq she ran toward the enemy trench line and engaged in a 45-minute firefight.

QUESTION: Why did you join the military?
LEIGH ANN HESTER: I joined the military because it was a childhood dream. I always looked up to seeing anybody in uniform, especially a woman in uniform, because it was rare. Police officer or a female Soldier, I always wanted to be that person.

QUESTION: When did you join and what was the attitude at that time?
LEIGH ANN HESTER: 2001. The attitude towards women when I joined, I believe it was just a few years before they integrated women into basic training with men. For me, I didn't know any different. I heard stories about how other military bases or boot camps where it was all male and I really didn't have any problems. As long as you can show you're tough and pull your own weight, you know, you won't have any problems, male or female.

QUESTION: Did you join before or after 9/11?
LEIGH ANN HESTER: Actually I signed the paperwork before 9/11. Then between the time that I signed the paperwork and went to boot camp, 9/11 happened. So, it was a sense of realism when I went to basic training. The drill sergeants and everybody were really trying to gear us up because they knew that there was going to be a mission coming out after that, and our training was tightened up, I guess.

QUESTION: How did that make you feel?
LEIGH ANN HESTER: The National Guard always responds to stateside deployments, and there have been missions too from my unit to Kosovo and Bosnia, and things like that, but nothing really wartime. So between the time that I raised my right hand and basically pledged my life to my country, and the time that I shipped off to basic training, things completely changed. I mean, like I said, there was a sense of realism and, you know, the reasons that I joined the Guard or the Army didn't change, and I was still happy to be there and happy that this is the completion of my childhood dream and a beginning of a great career.

QUESTION: Were you worried?
LEIGH ANN HESTER: Well, when I was at basic training, yeah, they heightened our awareness, we had to do a lot more training as far as we would be deployed and we were told that we were going to be deployed. When I got back to my home unit we were training up and getting ready, and it was just basically two years, two and a half years, after I signed up that I was shipped off to Iraq.

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