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Why I Serve: All-American Keeps Ball Rolling in Iraq

By Pfc. Abel Trevino, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service

BALAD, Iraq, Jan. 24, 2005 – Yolanda Gaddy's favorite book is Terry McMillan's "A Day Late and a Dollar Short," the story of a woman who changes her life drastically to make ends meet and support her kids after her man leaves abruptly.

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Yolanda Gaddy, a contract employee serving as MWR coordinator at LSA Anaconda, was an All-American women's college basketball player and All- Army player at Fort Stewart, Ga. Photo by Pfc. Abel Trevino, USA

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

The book mirrors Gaddy's own life. She left Georgia and arrived at Logistics Support Area Anaconda here Sept. 26, 2004, as a morale, welfare and recreation coordinator.

Gaddy said she plans to work in Iraq for three years in part, to better provide for her four children back in South Carolina in her parents' care. "I'm doing this for my family," she said. "It's hard being away from them because they are so small and lovable. I miss them and call them every day."

But Gaddy also feels that the sacrifice of being away from her family and the money she's making to help reach her goals are not the most important things she'll earn in Iraq. "I'm going to take (back with me) the experience of Iraq, the experience of working with MWR and interacting with the military," she said.

When Gaddy applied for her job with contractor Kellogg, Brown and Root, the recruiter told her it was in Iraq. "When I first told my mom, she thought I was crazy, but my dad was okay with it," she said. "I was really excited because I'd never been over here."

Gaddy said when she first arrived, she was excited and scared because she didn't know what to expect. "I was told that Anaconda was getting (attacked) a lot, so I was kind of scared. Now, I enjoy my job, and I enjoy my surroundings, and I'm glad to work with the military," she said.

As an MWR coordinator, Gaddy is responsible for overseeing third-country national employees, scheduling events, including basketball tournaments and other sports activities, and managing the MWR facilities she works at the West Side Combo Recreation Center and the Special Forces Fitness Center.

She said her job is perfect. "I love sports," she said. "They are my whole life."

She has been honing her basketball since she was 9 years old, skills she said were largely unnoticed until she was in high school. "I was in the 10th grade, and one day at practice, I was just fooling around with the guys," she said. "I was always tall and (the guys) were daring me, telling me, 'You can't dunk the ball, you can't dunk the ball!' and I went up and I dunked the ball."

Gaddy was an All-American women's center and forward while playing for South Carolina State University. Later, at Fort Stewart, Ga., she was on the women's All-Army team.

Gaddy hasn't had the chance to take her basketball abilities to another level, but looks forward to the possibility. "Hopefully, one day I'll get the opportunity to try out for the WNBA. That's one of my goals and hopefully I'll get the chance one day," she said.

(Army Pfc. Trevino is a member of the 28th Public Affairs Detachment from Fort Lewis, Wash., and is deployed to Iraq in support of units at LSA Anaconda.)

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