TOPEKA (KSNT) – Deb Lamere’s passion for serving in the United States military began in 2004. Moved by the horrors of the 9/11 attacks, she quit her six-figure career and enlisted in the Army, following in her dad’s footsteps.
“He was a 22-year marine. Three tours of Vietnam,” Lamere said. “He was a mechanic, helicopter mechanic, crew chief, door gunner.”
At the beginning of her career, she also started as a mechanic on Chinook helicopters and was quickly promoted to crew chief, and then flight engineer.
“From your routine supply and trip transport to air assault missions over in Iraq,” Lamere said.
She flew more than 750 hours during her deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan and was trained for situations like high-altitude rescue and medivac missions.
“There’s a reason why coast was nicknamed rocket city,” Lamere said. “We were a blackout fob, we couldn’t use white light at night. we got rocketed and mortared all the time.”
Despite the dangerous conditions every day, Deb felt more than fulfilled from her service until one mission changed everything.
“My fob (Forward Operating Base) was under attack and we were what we call black on artillery ammo, meaning we were critically low,” Lamere said.
The only available palettes of artillery available were in poor condition, but she had to make a split-second decision.
“I accepted them only cause we were so desperate for the ammo,” Lamere said.
Things quickly went wrong in the air, when pieces of the pallet started collapsing near the back of the Chinook.
“My passengers’ safety was at risk so I got up and went and I started throwing my body weight to rock it back up onto the rollers to try to get it back on there,” Lamere said.
Deb was badly injured while trying to protect her passengers.
“So it just kinda ripped my shoulder that way and it almost pulled the nerve roots out of my spinal cord on the left side,” Lamere said.
Deb lost her flight status and was medically retired. Unable to continue what she loved, she went through a deep depression and had to relearn things like how to write.
The combat veteran found hope through her service dog, Genesis, and continued work on the helicopter that has meant so much to her over the years.
“Just having my hands on the Chinook again and helping bring back the good memories and just knowing you know I went in to serve and I don’t regret one second,” Lamere said.
Among many other works of service, Deb volunteers at the Combat Air Museum in Topeka nearly every day and enjoys preserving military history for future generations to learn from.