ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL, Ill. - Miyoko Hikiji, an Iraq War veteran, shared her personal experiences in combat with the workforce. This was part of the U.S. Army Sustainment Command's Wellness Division resiliency program held here at Heritage Hall, Aug. 7.

Rock Island Arsenal civilians and military members listened to her story of resilience and how she personally dealt with the loss of her battle buddies, her transition out of the Army, challenges for the military Family, and her future outlook. Her presentation was titled "Resilience in Action: Woman-Warrior on the Front lines."

Sgt. 1st Class Joycelyn Clinton, ASC, served as the emcee for the event and provided opening remarks.

"Resilience is the ability to grow and thrive in the face of challenges and bounce back from adversity, "Clinton said. "Our mission is to enhance our workforce's effectiveness and well-being and to teach life skills you can use every day both at home and work."

Hikiji grew up not far from Rock Island Arsenal. She was born and raised in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and joined the National Guard in 1994, serving in a unit with only a handful of women.

Hikiji was called up to serve in 2003 during Operation Iraqi Freedom with the 2133rd Transportation Company. She was assigned to drive a truck through the war zone which, according to her biography, was a very dangerous job at that point in the war. Two of her close friends were among those killed in action.

Hikiji spoke of how she has had challenges recovering from traumatic experiences during her military career.

"Sometimes the wounds and the things that we carry within, we don't talk about. We try to hide them, but our families and co-workers see it," she said. "Instead of talking around it or ignoring it, it's important to develop this resiliency."

She believes resilience is an American value; which involves hard work over time; can be difficult to reach, but is attainable; and is part of the American Dream.

The dictionary defines resilience as the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties. Hikiji believes it is the ability for the new self to accept the new normal and to not go back to the old "shape."
After a 403-day deployment in Iraq, Hikiji returned to Iowa and Camp Dodge, where she went to work as a contractor.

During her nine years of service, she earned 16 military decorations and her transportation company received the second highest unit decoration-the Valorous Unit Award.

Hikiji continued her education back home, eventually earning degrees in journalism, mass communications and psychology.

Her passion to inform the public on current military topics, coupled with the therapeutic effects of the writing process, compelled her to share her personal experiences for NPR's "Tell Me More," USA Today, Marie Claire, AARP Magazine, and Stars and Stripes. Her book, "All I Could Be: My Story as a Woman Warrior in Iraq," was published in 2013.

Command Sgt. Maj. Joe M. Ulloth, ASC, provided closing remarks for the resiliency program.
"Everybody has a story. I've reflected on some of the challenges I've had to endure during my time," he said. "Time heals all things, and sometimes its laughter and sometimes it's just allowing ourselves to see the perspective a little differently. But, if you look to your left or to your right, you all have battle buddies that you can talk to and the key to it is just communication."