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New City Army Veteran Receives Rockland County Freedom Award

Rockland County Executive Ed Day and the County's Veterans Service Agency Director Jerry Donnellan presented Sgt. Elisabeth M. Gessel of New City with the 2016 Freedom Award.
Rockland County Executive Ed Day and the County's Veterans Service Agency Director Jerry Donnellan presented Sgt. Elisabeth M. Gessel of New City with the 2016 Freedom Award. Photo Credit: Facebook

NEW CITY, N.Y. -- A decorated Army veteran from New City was recognized by Rockland County leadership Friday for her service to the country.

Retired Army Sgt. Elisabeth M. Gessel was awarded the 2016 Rockland County Freedom Award for her performance during two tours in Iraq over an eight-year career, according to county officials.

Gessel, who joined the Army in August 1997, was first deployed to Kuwait in April 2003. Two months later, her unit arrived in Iraq, where she was assigned to a "Crimes Against Iraqi" prison in Ad Diwaniyah, according to County Executive Ed Day.

While working at the prison, she processed prisoners and trained Iraqi civilians to become correction officers, according to Day. She also volunteered for a special security detail.

After her first tour, Gessel attended leadership training in Germany. When she returned to Iraq, she served at a large "Crimes Against Coalition" prison, overseeing more than 500 prisoners, according to Day.

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

Gessel returned to the States in March 2004. She had served long enough that her daughter, 18-month-old Victoria, did not recognize her, Day said.

Gessel was honorably discharged in August 2005. Today, she works as senior director of merchandise at Active International in Pearl River.

The Freedom Award is the latest honor Gessel has received. The Army had previously awarded her numerous medals including the War on Terrorism medal and the Operation Iraqi Freedom/Enduring Freedom campaign medal.

Awarded Friday for the fourth consecutive year, the Rockland County Freedom Award is given each March in celebration of Women's History Month.

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