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January 22, 2007

Answering a call to serve

When Crystal Bond, Tahlequah resident and graduate of Northeastern State University, decided to volunteer to help victims of Hurricane Katrina in Mississippi in 2005, she had no idea how much her life would change.

Until her experiences in Mississippi, Bond was employed first with the Cherokee Nation then by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Bond, a cartographer - or map-maker - is currently a serving with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at Tallil Air Force Base in the Muthanna Province in southern Iraq, and it was her trek to Mississippi where she made her decision to volunteer.

“When my friend and I were volunteering in Mississippi, so many service men and women were returning from Iraq and not going home, but coming to Louisiana, Mississippi and the Gulf Coast to help out,” said Bond. “I figured if they could do that, then I need to do it at least once in my life. I don’t know how to describe it - the feeling to go and serve. It was a calling - potent and intense - something I couldn’t ignore.”

Bond returned to her job with the BIA and since she was a federal employee figured she’d be a shoo-in for voluntary service with the USACE.

“They [BIA] said ‘no,’” she said. “I couldn’t believe it. So, even before I had any confirmation of the job with the Corps, I quit the BIA. Just up and quit my job, that’s how strong this urge to volunteer was.”

Shortly after quitting the BIA, Bond received word she’d been accepted to the Corps of Engineers. Her family had mixed feelings about her going to Iraq, despite the fact she has a brother in the U.S. Air Force.

“When I talked to my family, one of my sisters was OK with my volunteering,” said Bond. “She seemed to understand my reason for going. But my other sister was angry, almost fearful of my going. I don’t know how, but I knew I’d be OK I just had faith in that fact. Once I convinced her of that, she eased up a little. I kept telling her, ‘you can’t be fearful and faithful at the same time.’”

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