Here is a picture of my husband, Joe and I. We are both out of rank in this picture and our previous ranks, Joe a Major, and me an E7.

I had a soldier die before I left for Iraq. He was to be my
replacement. I couldn’t make the call to talk to his wife. I wrote
her a personal sympathy card. They had a baby together. He was
maybe a year old. Everyone grieves in a different way. I have done
many funeral details in my time, but to actually have it be one of your soldiers — no words can describe it.

My friendships were earned by trust. The life lessons learned
through my military service have given me lasting memories with
people from all walks of life offering skills to be shared by all. My
greatest fear was not coming home alive. The worst part was not
being treated equal. I do not regret going, as I always wanted to
know how I would do in a real situation. I’m glad to have served
my country. My husband, Joe and I both went to Iraq but at different times. Joe went two weeks after our daughter was born, and I went when she was 4 years old.

Readjustment to “normal life,” without being in Iraq any longer,
was fine. But all of the silly things back home seemed to bother
me. Why worry about such small things?

Joe completed 20 years of active federal service. His rank was Lieutenant Colonel (LTC), branch Ordnance. I completed 20 years of active federal service. My rank was Master Sergeant (E8).
Here is a family picture of all of us.

~ Penelope Friedman, Iraq and Afghanistan Veteran
Retired U.S. Army 1987–2011
Former 88 Master Sergeant
Military Intelligence Reserve Command (MIRC)

Veteran Stories Interviewed by Jenny La Sala