- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 13, 2006

NORFOLK — Miranda Summers settled in last August for what looked to be a promising senior year at the College of William & Mary, with good friends, great classes, leadership roles in some clubs and that slot she’d been wanting in her sorority house.

Then, in mid-October, her Virginia Army National Guard unit got deployed, arriving in Iraq in January, and Sgt. Summers wound up reading textbooks, writing papers and exchanging e-mails with professors in between flying missions as a gunner on a Black Hawk helicopter.

She will graduate on time, with a 3.5 or 3.6 grade-point average, and will be on the Williamsburg campus today to walk with her class during the commencement ceremony.

After a brief leave, it’s back to Iraq for 10 more months to complete her 18-month deployment.

“I definitely had that feeling of just being robbed,” Sgt. Summers said. But she didn’t try to delay her deployment out of loyalty to her unit, the 2nd Battalion, 224th Aviation, based in Sandston.

“Also, it’s not really fair for me to say ‘Hey Army, pay for my school, but then when you want something out of me, I’m not going to be there for you,’” said the 23-year-old history major who received the Ewell Award, established by the college’s Student Assembly to honor well-rounded graduating students.

Sgt. Summers is one of the more than 6,850 Virginia National Guard soldiers and airmen who have entered active federal service since the September 11, 2001, attacks. The state has about 8,200 Guard members.

“We know each and every one of them has sacrificed to be able to do this for us, particularly young people who were involved in their education … and young folks trying to get their families started,” said Lt. Col. Chester C. Carter III, a spokesman for the Virginia National Guard.

Sgt. Summers, whose grandfathers served in Vietnam and Korea, said she had wanted to join the military since she was a girl in Muncie, Ind., watching “M*A*S*H” reruns and buying camouflage uniforms at Goodwill. Her family now lives in Knoxville, Md.

Her parents persuaded her to go to college first. Her mother, who died when Sgt. Summers was 15, was an “Air Force brat” and had mixed feelings about her daughter going into the military, “but I’m sure she would be proud,” Sgt. Summers said.

Sgt. Summers was a freshman at George Washington University when the September 11 attacks took place.

“I got tired of other people fighting for the things I believed in,” she said. So she soon signed on with the Indiana National Guard and transferred to Ball State University. After a year off between her sophomore and junior years to go to basic and advanced training, she switched to William & Mary and to the Virginia National Guard.

Sgt. Summers is a supply sergeant, ordering everything from paper clips to rifles to trucks.

But in Iraq, she’s also part of a Black Hawk air crew a few days a week, manning a machine gun, helping passengers get on and off and taking care of cargo.

She declined to give more details, citing security reasons since the unit remains in Iraq, about 25 miles outside Baghdad.

On flight days, Sgt. Summers would bring along a book and read when the helicopter stopped to refuel. Back in her tent, and then later her trailer, she would read some more and write on her laptop. At one point, Sgt. Summers was doing some reading while the area she was in was being shelled, said history professor Scott Nelson, who helped Sgt. Summers by e-mailing her the lectures for his Civil War class.


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