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Stories of sacrifice

Thank veterans and their families, too 1995 SHS grad featured speaker at Veterans Day program

SOLON Words matter.
Thank you for your service, is a common phrase that we hear as service members, observed United States Air Force Lt. Col. Karri (Hirl) Roman. It may seem simple, but there is so much meaning behind that phrase.
Roman, a 1995 graduate of Solon High School, was the featured speaker at the annual Veterans Day program hosted by the school in its Center For the Arts Wednesday, Nov. 11.
Sacrifices are made by all service members, Roman said, although those sacrifices may look different.
What is common is every generation has sacrificed. All members have sacrificed, she added.
In World War I and II, families sacrificed sending their children to war, at the cost of almost 350,000 lives, she explained. Service members in the Korean War were exposed to radiation and frostbite, causing long term disabilities.
Vietnam veterans suffered from exposure to Agent Orange and were treated with disrespect upon their return, she continued. Nerve agents have proven to cause neurological conditions for Gulf War veterans, and many in the global war on terrorism sustained traumatic brain injuries and been targeted by terrorists.
Why do they do this? she asked. Why do we in uniform continue to do this today?
Roman shared her story
A graduate of Luther College, she remembered walking to class one day, actively avoiding a recruiter. She didnt want to make eye contact- didnt want to have difficult conversations or be coerced into signing on the dotted line.
She went on to obtain her degree and became an emergency room trauma nurse.
Several years later, she came home from a night shift, but she didnt go straight to bed like she normally would. Planes had struck the World Trade Center in New York.
In the days that followed, I remember lying in bed, next to my husband, wondering if he would be one of those very first in my generation to be dropped in and sent off to war, Roman recalled.
It didnt happen, but a couple of years after, she was working with a colleague who said she would make a good fit for the Air Force.
And I had no idea what she meant, Roman shared. Wed had military service throughout my family, but I was never a military brat.
She discussed it with her husband.
We were intrigued enough to actually go talk to a recruiter this time. It wasnt panic. It wasnt fear, she noted. But it was interest. How could we serve our country?
They found an Air Force rooted in a foundation of core values.
Of service before self, excellence in all we do and above all, integrity, she said. And those are exactly the core values that hit home for my husband and I.
She and her husband Todd realized it was an organization they wanted to be part of.
They entered the Air Force, and a year later, she was short-tasked for deployment as part of operation Iraqi Freedom. After two weeks of training, she was assigned to an expeditionary hospital and within two days the first casualty occurred.
An improvised explosive device had gone off and small arms fire had caused mass confusion outside the gates of the base, Roman said.
Over 30 wounded came in the hospital.
They were not all Americans, but it was our civic duty to take care of any person who came in those doors, not matter what their status was, she said. And we could not save them all.
Lt. Col. Roman has served 16 years in the Air Force, abroad in Iraq and as an emergency services nurse manager at Lakenheath, Eng., as well as assignments to various bases in the United States.
She received her promotion to Lt. Col. in 2018 and is presently the Healthcare Operations Squadron Commander for 375th Medical Group at Scott Air Force Base (AFB), St. Louis, Ill., overseeing primary care, graduate medical education, immunizations, womens health and pediatrics with a staff of 150 people.
She graduated squadron officer school and obtained masters degrees in healthcare management, military operational arts and sciences and most recently, strategic leadership.
She, and her husband, Lt. Col. Todd Roman, and daughter Alaina, reside at Scott AFB in St. Louis, Ill.
They have three deployments between the two of them, endured four years of separation in serving their country and their daughter has had four different schools, she said. Theyve moved their entire household six different times.
Simply put, my husband and I, we serve because we believe we can make a difference, she told those in attendance. We believe that there is something larger than just ourselves.
Motivated by patriotism and a love of country, they believe they will make the world a better place.
The military has shown us diversity, Roman said. Its helped us make many connections and develop friendships very different than what we expected and different than Iowa.
And so we learned to appreciate every single individual for what they could contribute, she commented.
Roman shared the story of Lt. Col. Leo Gray, one of the original Tuskegee Airmen, who flew a P-51 Mustang in Eastern Europe during World War II at the age of 19, and who trained by flying under bridges in the Carolinas.
And the story of Master Sgt. Timothy Wilkinson, a para-rescuer at the Battle of Mogadishu in Somalia who came under heavy fire from three different directions. Wilkinson provided emergency medical treatment to survivors and helped evacuate the dead and wounded during the longest sustained firefight US combat forces had seen in nearly 25 years, Roman said.
Wilkinson was shot in the back, but broke his own cover three times to render aid to rangers, she said.
Maj. Gen. Jeannie Leavitt became the first female pilot of an F15 fighter and mentored Brie Larson for her role in Captain Marvel, she continued, while Gen. Lori Robinson was the first female to rise to the rank of four-star general and command combat forces.
Each of them pushed themselves further, farther and faster out of service to their country, she said.
There are words that hold deep meaning for each of us veterans, she shared. I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America
I solemnly swear that I will support and defend the constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic Thank you for your service.
These are words that matter.
In the future, she said, when the phrase comes to mind, consider telling a veteran, thank you and thanks to your family, too, for the sacrifices they have made.