Prestigious award presented in Honor of Women’s History Month

unnamedNEW CITY, NY — Rockland County Executive Ed Day and the County’s Veterans Service Agency Director Jerry Donnellan last week presented New City resident Elisabeth M. Gessel with the fourth annual Rockland County Freedom Award for her outstanding service to our nation as a Sergeant in the United States Army.

“When our nation called upon Lis, she stood up, raised her hand and served,” said County Executive Day. “We’re all grateful for the challenges she endured and overcame and the sacrifices she made that men simply didn’t have to make. Sergeant Gessel is a trailblazer and her service will inspire many generations of women.”

Gessel’s enlistment in August, 1997 led to boot camp in Fort McClellan, Alabama, including Military Police school. The enlistment called for six years of active reserve duty, followed by two years of inactive reserve duty. Gessel ultimately retired after eight years as an active reservist.

After spending time at various posts throughout the United States, Gessel was activated in January, 2003 for a mission to Iraq. She was deployed to Kuwait from Fort Dix, New Jersey in April, 2003. Her unit arrived in Iraq two months later.

While in Iraq, Gessel was assigned to a “Crimes Against Iraqi” prison in Ad Diwaniyah. Her duties included training Iraqi civilians to become correction officers. Other duties involved the processing of prisoners, including their feeding and health care.

While working in Ad Diwaniyah, Gessel was requested to take part in a private security detail, which allowed her the unique experience of functioning as a decoy. Upon completion of the mission, Gessel attended leadership training in Germany. Sergeant Gessel returned to Iraq for a second tour, where she served as a correction officer at a large “Crimes Against Coalition” prison. She served as a non-commissioned officer, (NCO) overseeing more than 500 prisoners.

Gessel returned to American soil in March, 2004. Her daughter, Victoria, was seven-months at deployment, growing to 18 months while her mother served in the Middle East. Victoria did not recognize Lis when she arrived home. Sergeant Gessel separated from the Army with an Honorable Discharge in August, 2005. During her military tenure, she received numerous medals and commendations for exemplary service, including the War on Terrorism medal and the Operation Iraqi Freedom/Enduring Freedom campaign medal.

She is employed today as the Senior Director of Merchandise Sales for Active International in Pearl River.

Said County Executive Day, “The courage and sacrifice Sergeant Gessel displayed while serving our nation has contributed to the freedoms and opportunities we benefit from every day in America. She didn’t sign up to shatter glass ceilings; she came to serve with distinction. The Rockland County Freedom Award serves as a testament of thanks from all of our residents.”

The prestigious Freedom Award is given in honor of Women’s History Month in March. Sergeant Gessel lives in New City.

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