KLFY is saluting our heroes who have served or are serving our country in the military.

The Louisiana National Guard is currently deployed in the Middle East.

A soldier from Crowley who stepped out of her comfort zone to earn a special award. Specialist Vanessa Taylor serves as an IT specialist with the National Guard, but she recently earned the Gold German Proficiency Badge along with three others from her unit. It’s the highest level of marksmanship in the challenge, and she was the only woman who participated.

She explains what happened when she was chosen. “when everyone found out that i was going to do Schutzenschnur, they told me, don’t embarrass the Louisiana National Guard.”

Taylor’s command sergeant chose her becase of her ability to shoot the m4 rifle, but what her makes her accomplishment more remarkable is that she had never, as a soldier or civilian, fired a pistol.

“I didn’t know how to load it, I didn’t know how to chamber a round, I was extremely nervous. I didn’t even know how to hold it. The German guy had to teach me,” Taylor said.

When it was her turn, she placed five pistol rounds in the target, and was overjoyed. “My company commander, my sergeant major, they were all out there. I gave them the thumbs up and they went crazy and they said no way you did it and I said I did it.”

Once she hit 13 of the 16 shots with the rifle, the only female soldier participating that day earned the Gold German Proficiency Badge.

Taylor said she felt a weight lifted after successfully completing the challenge.

“I had to prove myself and I had to represent other females in the military and it put more pressure on me because I didn’t want to go over there and prove everyone right that girls can’t do this but we can.”

Taylor credits her strong command team for this accomplishment and the success of their missions in Iraq. She will continue in her role as an IT specialist until the brigade head back to their families in Louisiana.

She is homesick, but positive. “I just want to say that I miss you all and I can’t wait to get home we’re just counting down the days.”

The Louisiana National Guard 256th Infantry Brigade Combat Team is deployed as part of Operations Inherent Resolve and Spartan Shield. They are expected to return later this year.