I met Wanda Solomon years ago after I moved to Anchorage. Wanda Solomon’s hometown is Kaltag, located in interior Alaska. Her dad, William Solomon, Sr. retired from the Army National Guard as a first sergeant. He helped guys from the village. Everyone respected and looked up to him. Wanda says, “He taught me a lot about hard work and dedication.”
Wanda earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a marketing emphasis in 1994 from the University of Alaska – Anchorage. She enlisted in the Army National Guard at the age of 30. Wanda says, “I put myself through college first, then I wanted to see where that Guard would take me.” She was deployed to “Operation Enduring Freedom” in Afghanistan as a Public Affairs Specialist from January 2005 to May 2006. Wanda was also deployed in 2012 for six months.
I have a tremendous amount of respect for anyone who serves our country, especially Alaska Native women. Wanda says, “Women have to work extra hard to prove themselves to their men counterparts.” I don’t know what the current statistics are, but it seems like the military has been dominated by men.
I have many relatives who have served in various branches of the military. I can’t imagine what it must be for an Alaskan to serve in Afghanistan, where the average temperatures are 88-115 degrees Fahrenheit. Many of those serve put aside their own comfort to protect our freedom.
Wanda wants to start focusing on figuring out ways to help and better serve the veterans who return from war. She remembers what it was like when she got back. When you are in war, you are constantly thinking about safety and have a weapon. For the first few months after she got back to Alaska, she found herself wanting to reach for her weapon. Wanda has seen veterans suffer from PTSD or short-term amnesia after they return. They (returning veterans) are trying to fit back into society.
Wanda especially advocates for the Alaska Native people from the villages who are stationed in the city. Some of the vets may have trouble navigating the military’s medical system in the city, and she wants to offer guidance. Wanda was a speaker for the Yellow Ribbon program where she spoke to different groups about what combat is like for a woman.
Wanda is often invited to speak and give testimony at churches to speak about her experiences of serving in the Guard. Wanda and I share a friend, Sonia Vent. Sonia says, “Wanda has a voice and she uses it to advocate for those less fortunate.”
In each job, Wanda focuses on researching regulations and staying focused. She says it is important for woman in the military to communicate with officers and leaders. Wanda is now on active duty with the Alaska Air National Guard at JBER in Anchorage. She was most recently an Air National Guard Augmentee supporting the 673rd Security Forces.
“Women being in the military is a challenge because we often have to prove our work ethic and show that we are just as competent as men. When I was in Afghanistan during 2005-2006, I observed the Alaska Native Culture had similarities with the Afghan culture for the fact that families had close bonds. The families ate together in a potlatch style as we do in our culture. However, I could see the fear in Afghan and Pashu women because they do not have as much freedoms as us.” – Wanda Solomon, Athabascan
In 2010, the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium recognized Wanda with an award for her service as an Alaska Native Air National Guardsmen. That year, the Alaska Air National Guard’s 176 Wing was also recognized for all past and present Alaska Native Air National Guardsmen who have served. Wanda is very proud to serve her country. She says, “The American flag represents people who have died for our freedom.” I’m proud of Wanda for choosing to serve her country and for helping and inspiring people along the way.