- This is the second in a series highlighting the grand marshals of the 2019 Council Bluffs Veterans Day parade.
Sharlene Anderson of Council Bluffs is a grand marshal for this year’s Veterans Day Parade, along with Dawn Trotter, Shala Chevalier and Clarissa Conolley. Anderson served a total of three years on active duty in the U.S. Army and 25 years in the Army Reserve. She is currently serving her second term as commander of American Legion Rainbow Post No. 2.
The parade will begin at 11 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 9 at South Main Street and Ninth Avenue.
Anderson became interested in the Army as a girl growing up in Council Bluffs.
“I told my mom when I was 12 years old I was going to join the Army,” she said.
It sounded like an adventure, and Anderson liked physical challenges.
“I’ve just always been a tomboy, and it seemed natural to me,” she said.
She later found out that her father, who was not at home while she was growing up, was in the Army.
Anderson graduated from Abraham Lincoln High School in 1985 and enlisted in the Army right away. She was initially trained as a radio signal operator but was later transferred to motor transportation specialist.
Her first assignment overseas was in Germany. After two years on active duty, she came home.
“On my mom’s request, I came home,” she said, but she joined the Army Reserve — which would lead to more action.
In 1996, she volunteered to be reactivated and was deployed to Bosnia, where she served in troop movement control. It was their job to track coalition convoys.
“We had to keep track of where they were,” she said. “Sometimes we had to go into the country and make sure they got where they were going.”
Anderson said they didn’t have any convoys that were fired on.
“We were more worried about the old land mines from the Serbian war,” she said. “It’s pretty scary driving through the landscape when you know there’s land mines everywhere.”
Anderson came home in 1997 and returned to the Reserve. She retired in 2013 at the rank of sergeant first class as an instructor in transportation and leadership. She was in charge of reclassifying active and Reserve soldiers for transportation.
Anderson joined the American Legion in 2014 and served as sergeant-at-arms until she was elected commander in 2018. She was re-elected commander this year. She is also a member of the honor guard and the Legion Riders.
Anderson was encouraged to run by past commander Virgil Steenbock, who also mentored her a little and backed her for the position. She and another member ran, and both dropped out to defer to the other. But she was persuaded to serve.
“I had to win a lot of them over, because they’d never had a woman and I was younger than most of them,” she said.
But attitudes are changing, even among the older generation, Anderson said.
“There’s still a tendency where, whenever people see you at a Legion function, they ask whose wife you are,” she said. “They should ask you first, ‘Did you serve?’”
Because of the War on Terrorism, all members of the U.S. Armed Forces who have served since Aug. 2, 1990, or during previously designated wartime periods and were honorably discharged or are still serving are eligible to join the American Legion.