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For female Iraq veteran, Army is family affair

Andi Lappin joined army to honor her stepfather, left to raise her daughter

Published: Monday, Feb. 18, 2013 12:02 p.m. CST • Updated: Monday, Feb. 18, 2013 12:35 p.m. CST

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Andi Lappin used to love to go out, sleep in late and only had to worry about herself. Those days seem like a lifetime ago for the former U.S. Army Specialist who is now a new mommy and adjusting to civilian life after five and half years of serving her county.

“It was fun for the most part,” Lappin said. “When I first joined, my first duty station was Germany. So, I was 19 years old in Germany; that was awesome and a lot of fun. I got a chance to see a lot of things that most people don’t get the chance to.”

One of those things she got to see firsthand was Iraq. She spent a year there.

“We worked a lot of hours,” she said. “I got to learn more about my job and actually do my job. It was warm, it was fun I had a good time. I was in Aviation Battalion, with my unit we kept track of all the ammunition that was put on the Apache Helicopters. I learned a lot about that kind of stuff. Any time they would download them or need more to rearm they would have to come through us.”

Another unique experience she enjoyed was working alongside the British military.

“When we went to Basra we helping to take over for the Brits,” she said. “So we got to work with the British Royal Air Force. That was a fun transition, seeing how different armies (work).”

As much as Lapping loved the military she finally decided to leave last February.

“I was having a baby,” she said. “And I was just tired of being away from home all the time. I’ve been going to college. I was going to William Penn, but I am currently looking for a different college at the moment. I am looking to try and get certified to work with ammo on the civilian side.”

Family is very important for Lappin. She joined the military because she idolized her step-father who just retired after 30 years of service. The military is also a huge thing for her family because of this. Her mother volunteers at the American Legion and in Iraq she got the unique opportunity to work alongside her step-brother.

“My step dad had just retired from the army,” Lappin said. “I’ve always looked up to him. He is one of the big reasons I joined. I liked the structure of it. I’m the kind of person that needs that structure and the way that its laid out. And waking up everyday knowing that you’re making a difference and I was making my family proud.”

Her mother fully supported her decision to go into the military while her step dad was slightly apprehensive.

“I taught it was a good idea,” Laurie Nelson, Andi’s mother said. “I thought it would be good for her. She’s more sure of herself now. She’s still hard headed as usual. She has grown up. I think the army had a lot to do with, her experiences there and her having her daughter. I think she learned that she can do what she just sets her mind to do.”

Lappin recalls that moment with her step-dad.

“He was unhappy that I didn’t join the National Guard,” Lappin said. “But he told me, ‘Once you go, you can’t look back. You can’t come home. You have got to do it all the way through or don’t do it at all. There was no turning back.’ “

“I pretty much knew the entire time if I went AWOL or anything like that I wouldn’t have a home to come back to,” she continued with a laugh. “They would be the first ones to take me back.”

As a 24-year-old new mom, Lappin has noticed her own transformation from the teenager who first signed up for the army.

“Definitely a different transition,” Lappin jokingly said. “Before all I had to worry about was myself. Now I have to worry about feeding her, changing her, making sure she’s happy and clean and has things to chew on. Sleep is a beautiful thing. On the weekend I used to always sleep in, which I can’t do anymore. It changed my whole perspective on life. I used to like to go out and have fun and have a few beers. Now its like, ‘Yeah, I think I am going to stay in.’ Can’t get a baby sitter every night, not that I would want to.”

Lappin also thinks there a lot of misconceptions placed on current and past veterans.

“And with being out of the army, (I learned) that not everybody’s perspective of the military is the same,” she said. “It’s really not the way some people view it. People think just because I was in the army I killed people and saw people die and all that stuff. That’s not the truth, not everyone goes through all of that, not everyone does that, and I certainly didn’t. Like a job, except you just get to carry a gun.”

Staff writer Ty Rushing may be contacted at (641) 792-3121, ext. 426, or at trushing@newtondailynews.com.

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