In the days leading up to Veterans Day, WNPR brings you stories from veterans and those in their community.
Emily Hein is a member of the Connecticut Army National Guard. She served in Afghanistan.
"I signed up on my mother’s birthday, which she was kind of leery about. I began my career as a broadcast journalist in the Connecticut Army National Guard and became an officer then, which I chose transportation, not realizing initially that that would take me to Afghanistan where I went to in 2012 through 2013 as a platoon leader to about 55 soldiers and then a convoy commander also.
"On the way over I was able to get up into the cockpit of the C-17. I don’t even know if you’d call it a cockpit -- it’s like a big room -- and I was able to take pictures as we were coming in. I saw how vast and empty it really was. It just seems like there was really no one out there and then I realized that’s where I'm going to be, like this is home for the next nine months.
"The way I had to go out on these missions, I did about twenty the time I was there, and I really had to be OK that if I had to go, I was OK with that. And I’d tell my parents, I’d tell, he was my fiancé at the time, I said “If anything happens to me -- this place is very random -- it’s my time.”
Coming home, my mom, she was giving me a hug, and she started breaking down. She’s like “I just, I can’t believe, I can’t believe you’re back. I’m so happy. I didn’t know what to think and now I can relax.”
"The Army itself is considerably male dominated. It’s just really knowing that it’s not easy because of the environment that it is, but it’s a great challenge and I’ve become so independent and much more confident and I’m able to transfer that to everyday jobs.
"I don’t know if, you know, if people would pick me out of a lineup and say ‘she’s a truck driver and she ran missions in Afghanistan."
Emily Hein now works for the Connecticut Department of Veterans Affairs.