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Cottage Grove wife, mother, Guardsman receives Bronze Star

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Minnesota Army National Guard Sgt. Hiedi Allen, a mother of three stationed in Iraq, started out her time there keeping track of other soldiers awards.

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Now the Cottage Grove resident has gotten a big one of her own -- The Bronze Star Medal for "exceptionally meritorious conduct."

Although Allen is a Human Resources Sergeant, when her brigade's mission changed she volunteered to serve as a driver for convoy escort teams while at the same time reorganizing her own department so that they could keep processing awards in her absence.

"She is a noncommissioned officer of the highest caliber and proved herself time and time again," according to the narrative that accompanied the Bronze Star Medal.

Allen was deployed with the 1st Brigade, 34th Infantry Division Sept. 12, 2005, and has spent the past 15 months in Iraq. She is expected home in early August.

The 34th Division is stationed at Tallil Air Base, located near Nasiriyah. During her tour she wrote the Awards Standard Operating Procedures manual, and with her team of three soldiers, managed, tracked and processed more than 7,000 awards for the brigade during Operation Iraqi Freedom, the narrative says.

Allen joined the Army and served for two years after she graduated from high school in Spooner, Wis., then joined the Guard following the events of Sept. 11, 2001. In 2003, she enlisted in the Minnesota Guard.

In an e-mail, Allen said she first joined the guard because she wanted to do her part in the war and thought if she could help, then soldiers would not have to deploy more than once.

When she comes home, Allen said she's looking forward most to being with her family again, having a cup of coffee at Caribou, grocery shopping and going to Target "for anything and everything."

"I really look forward to freedom," she said. "I know that sounds cheesy, but we've been stuck on a postage stamp-size base for two years, and, for security reasons, we don't leave our base unless we're on gun trucks. So, I am looking forward to driving my Explorer and enjoying the freedoms of being an American."

She lauds her fellow Guardsmen.

"I have learned what amazing men and women we have in Minnesota," Allen said.

Because she processes awards, she reads about her fellow soldiers heroic actions, she said.

"I have learned that no matter what the reasons we are at war, we are here and our men and women are doing great things when faced with not so great situations."

Her life, and that of her family, has changed during the past two years, she said.

"The experiences for my family have been two-sided. On the one side, we are all lonely (me in Iraq and my family at home) and all scared that I am here in Iraq, and I've missed two years of my kids' lives.

"On the other side, this has allowed my husband to really flourish as the primary caregiver and bond with our children, while allowing me to grow as an individual. Being a mom with three kids, sometimes you get lost somewhere in between your job, being a mom and a wife. This deployment has changed my life by forcing me to focus on just me and taking care of just me for a period of time and let my husband take care of our life at home. Deploying really, really grounds you and makes the priorities list and focus of family very clear.

Hiedi Allen and her husband, Sgt. First Class Chris Allen have two daughters and a son.

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