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SMC alumna speaks about Army experience

Alicia Smith | Friday, November 12, 2010

Saint Mary’s alumna Sarah Rykowski said she found the same sense of community in the United States Army that she felt during her time at Saint Mary’s College.

“The same sort of sisterhood I had at Saint Mary’s I found in the Army,” she said.

Rykowski returned to the College to speak in honor of Veterans’ Day Thursday in Carroll Auditorium. Rykowski shared her story with students, faculty, staff and community members.

“Policy is about what’s happening now, and we’re talking about what happened in 2007, but it’s relevant because it is about veterans in more than just myself,” she said. “Finally, it also takes time for many veterans to come forward about what happened and what their experiences were in their deployment.”

After graduating from the College in 2002, Rykowski attended law school before she decided to become a member of the Army.

“I come from a family that has military service in my mom’s side which goes back to the Revolutionary War,” she said.

Rykowski said she was commissioned into the Army on Sept. 11, 2005.

In April 2007, she was deployed to Iraq to act as an additional attorney and as a foreign claims attorney, each for half of her deployment.

Rykowski recounted her experience on May 17, 2007, where she was wounded when the humvee she was riding in drove over an improvised explosive device.

Rykowski said she and one other person survived the explosion, while three others did not.

Rykowski sustained injuries to her arm and was treated by Army medics on the scene before being taken to the hospital.

“You are kind of caught in a time warp … time has stopped but time is still moving and you don’t really know what is going on,” she said.

Though Rykowski was wounded in Iraq, she remained optimistic and stressed the importance of keeping a sense of humor. She explained how she joked around even when she was wounded.

“We combat the somewhat scary, sad things with a sense of humor,” she said.

After she was released from the hospital, Rykowski said Saint Mary’s alumna Shanna Conner Cronin, one of her close friends from the College, met her and kept her company.

“We flew over to Camp Victory, and the first person to meet me off the aircraft was a Saint Mary’s girl,” she said. “She is one of my best friends. I talk with her everyday.”

After her injury healed, Rykowski said she returned to her deployment and completed it.

Rykowski was awarded with a Purple Heart for her service in Iraq, but she said it wasn’t the most important thing she drew from her deployment.

“I felt more proud of finishing that deployment and kind of getting through it than I did actually getting the Purple Heart,” she said.