She’s not that much bigger than the M-16 rifle she carried around, but Temple resident Yolanda Eddings, 41, could hold her own if she had to. Growing up a military brat, as she calls it, she was born in Georgia and raised in Colorado, graduating from Harrison High School there.
Eddings went to community college for a time but was unsure of what she wanted to do. Her mother told her she could do anything she put her mind to. But she was also impressed with her father’s military schedule, which was on three days and off for four.
Eddings thought, “I’m going to join the Army, too, so I can have four days off.”
Times being what they were, she remembered she wanted to be a teacher, so Eddings enrolled in college for a brief time until she met her husband, Steven, in 1998. They married in 2001.
In 2007, she decided to join the U.S. Army and went to basic and advanced training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. It was a great location for her, as Colorado was just hours away and she spent her time off traveling back home.
Even though Eddings was a human resource specialist, she was still deployed. Her first deployment was Speicher, Iraq, for nine months, where she took care of soldiers’ military records, ensuring they got their meal cards, proper citations, updating addresses and much more.
There were times they had incoming attacks and everyone would race to the bunker, but overall, she was glad when it ended because it got boring.
Eddings also spent about two years at Fort Lewis, Washington, the only assignment she found unpleasant after she was treated badly by another woman. However, during that time she was deployed to Afghanistan and the Forward Operating Base Shank for six months (FOB Shank).
“It was a blackout FOB,” Eddings said. “There were no lights whatsoever because it’s one of the places that gets hit a lot.”
She didn’t particularly care for that assignment. Taking a shower in a soft-shelled tent was nerve-wracking, she added, especially when there was incoming artiillery fire. And, she was not fond of walking around in the dark.
While at FOB Shank, she was also was a mail clerk, where she supervised civilians; they oversaw sending mail to all the other FOBs. She especially enjoyed filling a Conex container and watching it get loaded with all that mail.
Eddings also went to Kandahar, where she spent another six months. This FOB was worse than FOB Shank, she said.
“It was the worst six months of my life,” Eddings said.
Eddings was part of a combat liaison team in a NATO multinational medical unit. There, she was charged with identifying soldiers off the field — whether living or dead — to ensure all information was correct. She worked with a lot of naval members, among others. It wasn’t a pleasant job.
Eddings returned to Fort Lewis and had a change of station to Wiesbaden, Germany. She spent three and half years in Germany before she received an honorable medical discharge due to problems with her back and feet.
While there, she oversaw more than 600 soldiers and all their records.
Eddings left the military as an E-5 and returned to the States. She has a host of medals, including the Iraqi Campaign Medal, NATO Medal and the Army Commendation Medal. She served a total of nine years and several months.
As she was due to go to Texas, she and her husband did some research and moved to the Temple area.
Times were tough when Eddings first got out of the military. It took a year of applying to get a job as a substitute teacher. Meanwhile, she graduated from the Grand Canyon University online, earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in elementary and special education. She also was a substitute teacher with Belton ISD.
Eddings is attending Baylor University, where she will receive a bachelor’s degree in deaf education. She also volunteers with the Veterans Educational and Transition Services, (VETS) helping other veterans.
She worked for a time in the Baylor bookstore and still substitute teaches today, in addition to raising her children. She was recently nominated to be the secretary of Baylor's ASL Club, and is the VETS family support coordinator, as well as the VETS of Baylor vice president beginning in the fall.
Today, Eddings, a mother of three with one grandbaby on the way, sometimes gets nostalgic remembering her time in the military.
“I miss it sometimes,” she said. “I miss the camaraderie. It’s sad to move away from your friends. You have to start over.
“(But) If it wasn’t for the military and God, we wouldn’t have what we have now.”