Boonville native receives top honors

The sounds of 85 students calling cadence echoed the auditorium at Fort Jackson, SC on graduation day.
Excitement and an overall sense of achievement filled the heart of Sarah Gerke as she received top honors for recruiter school at the Soldier Support Institute in South Carolina on September 27.
“Well, up until the last few days, I didn't know I was at the top.  They didn't tell us our grades.  I knew I was up there, but there was no guarantee.  Military schools have a rule that if you get in trouble one time, even over something minor, like being a couple minutes late to class, you can't graduate with any type of honors. So I was more focused on doing my best, and keeping my own ducks in a row,” Gerke said.
Sarah Gerke, a Boonville native, and 2007 Boonville High School graduate played an active role in sports and band. After high school, Sarah went on to join the army in August of 2007, a decision which would change her life for the better.
“My life has changed quite a bit. If I hadn't joined, I’d probably still be the walking zombie that worked 60 hours a week at Sonic while going to school. Now I have a family, a house, a nice car, a life,” Gerke said.
Joining the army was an idea that stayed on Gerke's mind for quite some time since most of her family was part of the army. Sarah's love for competition helped her to succeed and grow as a soldier.
 “I love to put my best on the line and see if it's good enough.  Every day as a soldier you are competing with your coworkers for the best of something. Giving your all at everything will get you noticed, and will get you promoted. But performing at your best all day every day is very challenging, and not many can do it,” Gerke said.
Gerke remembers that June of 2008 day when she was in class and everyone was getting their orders issued for where they would be stationed. She was the only one out of her class that didn't have orders to go to Hawaii, she was going to be deployed to Iraq. Only 18-years-old at the time, and newly married, the thought of war scared her.
“Honestly, I was scared out of my mind. I was scared that I was going to die. Any 18-year-old girl suited up and shipped off to war is going to be scared of that. But there was a part of me, small as it was, that was curious... excited to do something new.” Gerke said.  
While in Iraq, Gerke rode in helicopters, drove Humvees, MRAP's (mine resistance ambush proof) learning basic soldiering skills was a daily mindset instilled in her mind. The unit deployed to Iraq for a 15 month tour.  During that tour, she participated in numerous drafting and surveying missions, while competing and winning several boards, to include being named the 225th Engineer Brigade Soldier of the Quarter.
While in the army, Gerke has received a long list of achievements for her hard work and consistent dedication. Just last year she was named the Post NCO of the Year and was inducted into the Sergeant Audie Murphy Club.  Her awards consist of six Army Commendation Medals, five Army Achievement Medals, two Certificates of Achievement, two Army Good Conduct Medals, the National Defense Service Medal, one Iraqi Campaign Medal with two Campaign Stars, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon with a second roman numeral, the Army Service Ribbon, the Over Seas Ribbon, and a Meritorious Unit Commendation.   
Although Gerke is quite busy with her career in the army, she also has plans to grow her family, and to move back to Missouri.
“My long term goal is to get selected for promotion to E7 when the board convenes year after next (boards convene each year, but I'm not eligible for consideration until 2015), finish my degree and eventually retire from the army and open my own furniture store,” Gerke said.
Gerke's experience has been one of a kind. Her self development and self assessment has led to six years of success in the army.