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In Honor of those who serve - Tristin Eastvold

Tristin Eastvold

Tristin Eastvold of Wrenshall served in the Army National Guard from 2002 until June 2011. After six months of training in Camp Shelby, Miss., Eastvold and her unit were deployed to Tallil Air Base in Iraq in March 2006. Originally scheduled to be overseas for a year, Eastvold's unit was there when the troop surge was implemented, so they stayed in Iraq closer to 16 months.

"I liked being a female there," said Eastvold, who also met her husband, Luke Eastvold, in Iraq. "When we started off we were security for big semis that would bring supplies up to Baghdad. Then we started doing security at civil military affairs, for diplomatic people when they would go and talk to leaders in An Nasiriyah, a nearby city. The men would come out and talk to [civil military affairs] about how we could help them. Maybe a road needed fixing and we'd be looking for a local contractor to work on the project."

Eastvold didn't really take part in those discussions. But she did often go inside, where the women were.

"I'd take off the helmet and sit there with them for a while. We couldn't really understand each other: they'd say stuff [and] I could kind of figure out what they were talking about. Sometimes the kids knew English, too, because we'd been there so long. They're like little sponges.

"[The women] would give me little things sometimes. Once someone gave me a shawl. I'd carry candy or little bottles of shampoo to give them."

Eastvold (who was Tristin Laveau then) signed up for the National Guard when she was 17.

"I wanted to be in the Army, I thought it would be cool, so I kept talking to my parents about it," she said. "I didn't really know what I wanted to do when I went in, whatever job gave the biggest bonus. When I was about 19, I decided I wanted to be a nurse."

Despite the interruptions to her schooling, Eastvold expects to graduate from the Lake Superior College registered nursing program in December.

How does she suggest people show their gratitude to veterans?

"I always thought it was cool when I was out [in uniform] whenever someone came up and said 'Thanks for your service,'" she responded. "I try to do that now, especially if it's a young kid, so they know they're making a difference."