Service an educational experience

Published 12:26 pm Thursday, November 12, 2009

Each year, millions of people are drawn to the military for different reasons, one of which is the educational opportunities service affords enlistees.

Deborah Howard joined the Army National Guard in 1985 for two reasons:

1. To serve her country.

2. To further her education.

Howard was assigned to the 1166 Military Police Unit out of Thomasville and in April 2003, she was activated and sent to Iraq on a one-year assignment.

“During our stay, the first part was the hardest,” she said of the underdeveloped base camp, which her unit occupied. “As time wore on, things got better. Things started getting built.”

Howard and her unit were living in tents just outside the International Airports and were assigned to guard duty for visitors and to ensure the safe transportation of other military units.

“We were assigned to pull security for VIP and generals,” she said. “We escorted them and took them for tours through Babylon and Ur, where the Bible says Abraham was born, which is now called Taliah.”

The time Howard spent entrenched in some of the Bible’s Holiest cities are what brought her education plans full circle once she returned stateside.

After graduating from Concordia with an associate’s in business, Howard enrolled in Selma University where she earned her bachelor’s in Bible and Theology.

She now serves as Chaplain of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5377 in Linden and Disabled American Veterans Chapter 31 in Demopolis.

“I keep the membership informed on the status of the sick and death reports,” she said. “I also help with our annual Buddy Poppy drive for veterans in need.”

And while Howard turned her years of service into two degrees, she said some of the most important things she learned came from the Army National Guard.

“I learned while serving to always try to help those in need,” she said. “You try to encourage people who are low motivated and you learn how to respect people in authority.

“I also learned to carry my code of conduct everywhere I go. Even though I retired in 2006, I still feel and act like I’m a soldier. If you live as a soldier, you’re a soldier for life.”