Veterans Day: Mother, student will never forget military

Published 6:01pm Sunday, November 10, 2013
Taryn Emery served two tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com
Taryn Emery served two tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com
Spc. Taryn Emery, attached to 2nd Battalion, 136th Infantry Regiment, holds a local girl who tries on Emery’s ballistics glasses during a combined humanitarian, medical, school and hygiene engagement operation in Qaryat Al Majarrah, Iraq. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Ryan Busse
Spc. Taryn Emery, attached to 2nd Battalion, 136th Infantry Regiment, holds a local girl who tries on Emery’s ballistics glasses during a combined humanitarian, medical, school and hygiene engagement operation in Qaryat Al Majarrah, Iraq. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Ryan Busse

Taryn Emery wanted to feel like she had done something worthwhile in her life.

Through the military, she achieved that. Two deployments later and now the 28-year-old mother and aspiring nursing student will never forget her time as a sergeant with the Army National Guard, and the everlasting friendships she has built. The Austin resident and veteran shares a close bond with people, from current soldiers to longtime veterans.

“I was actually thinking about the military today,” Emery said on Thursday. “The 114th is training again for another deployment. I keep in touch with some of the soldiers that are on that deployment again, and I talked to one today on the phone.”

Emery grew up in Lyle and graduated from Lyle High School in 2004. She enlisted when she was 17. Both her grandfathers served in wars, but that wasn’t really why she enlisted. Not only did she want to join to do something gratifying in her life, but she wanted to prove to others that she could handle a serious challenge.

“It was more like a challenge, and I knew the military would offer it,” Emery said. “It would just make me a better, stronger person, and I guess that’s what i was looking for.”

She discovered in the military, though, that nobody can do it alone. Soldiers need the strength and support of their comrades.

“There is no way you can get through anything like basic training or deployment on your own,” Emery said. “There are always people there.”

However, Emery didn’t want to be belittled because she was a woman in the military. After showing hard work, dedication and proving herself, she wasn’t. The same requirements go for everybody, no matter what gender.

“Hard work, wanting to be part of the hard work is what gets women respected in the military,” Emery said. “All you really have to do is work hard for more than yourself.”

Not long after basic training, Emery faced another challenge: deployment. She deployed with the Guard to Iraq from 2005 to 2007 and to Afghanistan from 2009 to 2010, where she worked in transportation and security. She wasn’t yet a mother, but being apart from family and friends for long periods was difficult. The military was her home.

“You live with them,” she said. “You go through everything with them.”

Emery talked about soldier conversations during the downtime, the missions, dust storms, poverty, being stuck on transports for 30 to 40 hours under duress. Her company lost a soldier in Afghanistan. Another soldier was sent home after a training injury and later died. The soldiers all carry that stress with them.

Emery is still close with many local soldiers who went to Afghanistan, and many who will soon embark on another deployment there.

Though her contract has long expired with the Guard, part of Emery feels like she’s supposed to be with them, the 114th Transportation Company out of Chisholm, Minn.

“I think the reason soldiers feel more connection with each other, even over time, versus college buddies, is because I think we cared more about that other person than we do ourselves,” she said. “We don’t care as much about ourselves; we just want our buddy to be OK.”

With those thoughts in mind, Emery called a fellow soldier, Josh Vandekamp, just days ago to talk about the deployment. She’s not going with, but she knows what Vandekamp and others are feeling. It’s something many people will never understand.

“It’s a really hard feeling to explain,” Emery said. “Nobody can get it until they’ve felt it. Maybe that’s why veterans feel an immediate connection with each other, even if they weren’t deployed together. You understand something other people can’t.”

Today, Emery is busy as a single mother, full-time student and a tutor at Riverland Community College in Austin. Veterans Day means a little more to her than it used to, but it doesn’t take a holiday to remind Emery of the sacrifices many veterans have made for their country. She hopes others will view the holiday with little more heart, instead of just another day off, as some do. On Monday, Emery will likely join many area veterans at one of Austin Public Schools’ veterans breakfasts and presentations. Emery is now a member of the VFW. Someday, when her hectic schedule loosens up, she hopes to take on a bigger role in veterans organizations. That’s because no matter what, the military will always be a part of who Emery is.

“I think it changed me in a lot of ways,” she said. “And it changed me for the better.”


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