Sergeant Leigh Ann Hester is a United States Army National Guard soldier who was awarded the Silver Star for her actions during an enemy ambush on her convoy in Iraq in 2005. Hester and her team were escorting a supply convoy when they were ambushed by insurgents. Hester and her team fought back against the insurgents, killing several of them and forcing the rest to flee.
Hester was born in Bowling Green, Kentucky, and later moved to Nashville, Tennessee. She joined the Army National Guard in 2001 and was deployed to Iraq in 2004. She was assigned to the 617th Military Police Company, 503rd Military Police Battalion (Airborne), based out of Richmond, Kentucky.
Hester’s actions during the ambush earned her the Silver Star, which is the third-highest military decoration for valor that can be awarded to a member of the United States Armed Forces. She was the first woman to receive the Silver Star for valor since World War II, and the first ever to be cited for valor in close quarters combat.
Sergeant Hester left the military in 2009 to work as a police officer in Franklin, Tennessee, but she rejoined a year later. In 2014 she spent 18 months in Afghanistan, where she was promoted to sergeant first class. And in 2017, she was sent to the Virgin Islands as part of the international humanitarian effort in the wake of Hurricane Maria. Asked in an interview why she reenlisted, she replied, “I love the Army. I love my country and I love being able to serve my country. And I feel that I, as a leader, have gained experience and knowledge that I can share and help train other Soldiers to take over my position when I move up, or move out eventually. But I’m going to be in the Army until they kick me out.”
Photo credit: U.S. Central Command website