Student home from Iraq tour squeezes in college graduation


NORFOLK, Va. (AP) – Miranda Summers settled in last August for what looked to be a promising senior year at the College of William and Mary, with good friends, great classes and that slot she’d been wanting in her sorority house.

Then, in mid-October, her Virginia Army National Guard unit got deployed, arriving in Iraq in January, and Summers wound up reading textbooks and writing papers between flying missions as a gunner on a Black Hawk helicopter.

The 23-year-old history major currently home on a two-week leave will be on the Williamsburg campus Sunday to walk with her class at commencement. Then it’s back to Iraq for 10 more months to complete her deployment.

“I definitely had that feeling of just being robbed,” Summers said in a telephone interview. But out of loyalty to her unit, the 2nd Battalion, 224th Aviation, she didn’t try to delay her deployment.

“Also, it’s not really fair for me to say, ‘Hey, Army, pay for my school, but then when you want something out of me, I’m not going to be there for you,”‘ she said.

Summers, whose grandfathers served in Vietnam and Korea, said she had wanted to join the military since she was a girl but her parents persuaded her to go to college first.

Her mother, who died when Summers was 15, was an Air Force “brat” and had mixed feelings about her daughter’s desire to enter the military, “but I’m sure she would be proud,” Summers said.

Summers was a freshman at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., when the Sept. 11 attacks happened. “I got tired of other people fighting for the things I believed in,” she said.

So she soon signed on with the Indiana National Guard and transferred to Ball State University. After a year off between her sophomore and junior years to go to basic and advanced training, she switched to William and Mary.

By trade, Summers is a supply sergeant, ordering everything from paper clips to rifles and trucks. But in Iraq, she’s also part of a Black Hawk air crew two to three days a week, manning a machine gun, helping passengers get on and off and taking care of cargo.

On flight days, Summers would bring along a book and read when the helicopter stopped to refuel. Back in her tent, and then later her trailer, she would read some more and write on her laptop.

At one point, Summers was reading while her area was being shelled, said history professor Scott Nelson, who e-mailed Summers the lectures from his Civil War class.

Summers earned an A-minus but missed out by not being able to participate in class discussions, and her classmates could have gotten the insight of someone dealing with military logistics firsthand, Nelson said.

“The class as a whole could have benefited from her sharp eye,” he said. “In the end, the Army benefited from her sharp eye, I suppose.”

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