Needing something different in her life at the young age of 22, Specialist E-4 Lynda Vaughn jumped in feet first and enlisted in the Army National Guard.

Vaughn, who now lives in Madrid with her husband, Jake, is surrounded by family in Slater and Huxley. Now, over four years into her enlistment, she juggles her military life with married life and life attending Mercy College of Health Sciences in Des Moines.

“My major is nursing,” she explained. “I will graduate with my RN in December of 2019, and then I will start working on my BSN.”

Vaughn has a pretty full life and reflects on how her military time all began.

“I needed something different in my life, but I just wasn’t sure what it was,” she tells. “I was watching TV one day when a recruiter called me. I almost hung up on him, but right at the last minute I decided to listen to what he had to say, and I agreed to an appointment with him the next day. I listened and was hooked right away. I instantly felt a sense of pride and I felt like I was a part of something much bigger than myself. And more importantly, I felt like this was something I could be proud of.”

Vaughn’s job in the Guard takes her in a couple different directions.

“My job on the drill side is a 92G Culinary Specialist,” she said. “My full-time job is a 42A or Human Resources Specialist. I work full-time doing paperwork for soldiers coming into the National Guard after they enlist, but before they attend basic training.”

Vaughn explained that not everyone that enlists in the National Guard makes it through basic training.

“For me, my enlistment is a sense of pride, knowing that I was able to accomplish something like this,” Vaughn explained. “It is physically and mentally demanding. I am proud of myself for giving it my all and making it through because I am a soldier now, and I get to wear the uniform every day and that is pretty cool.”

Training for a career in the National Guard happens in stages. According to Vaughn, it took her five months in the Recruit Sustainment Program (“RSP”).

“RSP is where you go while you are waiting to ship to training,” she explained. “The amount of time spent in RSP is different for everyone. RSP gets you ready for basic training by teaching you the most basic skills, rank structure, how to shoot a weapon, how to march in a formation and the Army values. I did 11 weeks of basic training in Fort Sill, Okla., where you pretty much learn how to be a soldier. From there, I did nine weeks of training in Fort Lee, Va., where I learned how to cook in the Army.”

Being an active member of the Army National Guard is a big commitment, according to Vaughn. It means missing birthdays, weddings and family functions when she is away on drills or at training.

“It is a commitment,” she said. “But I have done a lot of really cool things that I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to do otherwise. I have ridden in a Chinook, shot weapons that are bigger than I am, rappelled from a tower, even though I am really frightened of heights, and it was awesome.”

Serving in the military has been a family affair for Vaughn.

“Right now, it’s just me and my brother-in-law that are serving,” Vaughn told. “My brother-in-law enlisted last summer and will be leaving for basic training in about a month. My parents were both in the Army Reserves as combat medics — that is how they met. I have grandparents that served in the Army, Air Force and the Navy.”

Vaughn said that she has many really great people in her life, but she considers her parents and her husband to be her heroes.

“My mom is the hardest working woman I know,” tells Vaughn. “She is also the nicest person I know. She always finds the best in people and every situation, even when it’s really hard. My mom taught me empathy and compassion for others.”

She also talks about her dad, who works tirelessly to make sure everyone is taken care of before himself.

“He is the funniest person I know and whenever I am down about something, I can always count on him to cheer me up,” she added. “My dad also has really good advice and he will always give it to me straight, even if I am the one that messed up. My dad taught me how to work hard and never give up, even when I want to.”

Vaughn’s husband Jake is the third person in her life that inspires her.

“When I am not drilling, working or at school, I really enjoy spending time with my husband Jake and my pup Dexter,” Vaughn said. “We like being outside, fishing and going to St. Louis to watch the Cardinals play baseball. Jake is like no one I have ever met before. He is wonderful, funny, enthusiastic and such a hard worker. He supports me in everything I do with the National Guard and school and never complains. My husband taught me how to have fun and just be myself without fear of what anyone thinks.”

In closing, Vaughn said that she is really thankful for everything the National Guard has done for her.

“And if I had to do it all over again, I would have joined sooner, because it has opened up so many doors for me,” she concluded.