JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq- For Spc. Takia Andrews, a high priority work order and pass clerk with the supply support activities section for the 512th Quartermaster Company, 13th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 3rd Sustainment Brigade, 103rd Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), and an Ocilla, Ga., native, and Spc. Racurica York, final inspector with the container repair yard for the 512th Quartermaster Co., and Belzoni, Miss., native, spending the holidays deployed to Iraq was one of the toughest times that they have both experienced.

Both are on their first deployment and both have young children at home whom they miss very much, said Spc. York. They both felt as if those feelings of loneliness and separation from Family were feelings that were unique to them.

"We said to ourselves that we couldn't be the only ones to feel this way," Spc. York said. "We were amazed at the amount of people that wanted to share their stories, so we decided to bring them all together in a celebration of strong women at war."

The Strong Women at War celebration, held Jan. 21 at Joint Base Balad, Iraq, was dedicated to those women who have made a difference on the front lines and behind the scenes during war time, said Spc. Andrews. All of the speakers and performers at the ceremony had a story to tell or words of wisdom to share.

"This program was to reassure women that we are not at war alone," said Spc. Andrews. "This is our first deployment. This is our first time missing birthdays, Christmases, Thanksgivings and other important events. There are other women in the military that have missed these same significant events, and you shouldn't feel guilt for missing these things."

Specialist Andrews added that someone else, either higher or lower ranking, may have been through the problems that other women face while deployed.

"This program showed women that what they are experiencing is perfectly normal," she said.

The program included inspirational poems and songs recited and sung by Soldiers, Airmen and civilians at JBB. Many women volunteered to speak about their experiences in the military and the hardships they have faced when dealing with deployments and life.

Sergeant Kenvee Parker, the noncommissioned officer-in- charge of automated logistics with the 540th Quartermaster Company, 13th CSSB, and a Saint Louis, Mo., native, told her story about her life's trials and tribulations. How, at the age of 36, she said, she overdosed on sleeping pills, Prozac and Bacardi rum, but was saved and able to turn her life around.

"My story is only four years in the making," she said during her speech. "At 36, I committed suicide and died. I did not see the light everyone says they see. I saw complete darkness, pain, and felt such agony and despair. I felt hell at its worst without dying. When God intervened and brought me back, he poured a new spirit into me. He told me that He had a plan for my life and my Family's life."

Sergeant Parker's story was one of many shared during the Strong Women at War celebration. Many spoke of the courage it takes for a wife, a mother, a daughter, or an aunt to join the military knowing that they might head to war one day.

"It takes a strong woman to raise their right hand and say, 'I will defend my country at all costs,'" said Spc. Andrews. "It takes an even stronger woman to pack up home, kiss your spouse and children goodbye, and just hope and believe you will see them again. We all left home with no guarantee that we would return the same.
"The reason why we wanted to do this program is to reassure women that they are not at war alone," Spc. Andrews added. "There are many people within this room that have been through the same trials and tribulations that we are going through today. I want to thank each and every one of them for what they do and for paving the way for other strong women at war."