CRESTVIEW — The Military Order of the Purple Heart Chapter 811, Niceville, has elected Meredith M. McQuagge, a combat-wounded Iraq War veteran, as Florida’s first female chapter commander.
McQuagge, 34, was born in Stamford, Texas, and graduated Magna Cum Laude in 2001 from the University of North Texas with a Bachelor of Arts in Communications. She joined the U.S. Army in March 2006. After basic training and advanced individual training at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., she reported to Fort Sill, Okla.
She served in Iraq from December 2007 to March 2009, providing convoy security for vehicles at Tallil Airbase, southeast of Baghdad, and as a member of a dedicated movement team working with the State Department at Camp Echo, Iraq.
On July 5, 2008, McQuagge was wounded when a 105-mm rocket exploded nearby. Wounds included shrapnel in her face and neck, with the largest piece less than 1/4-inch from her carotid artery; third-degree burns to her neck; damage to her mouth and teeth; and a traumatic brain injury, which has resulted in blinding headaches, vertigo and memory lapses.
She was awarded the Iraq Campaign Medal with two stars; the Purple Heart; Army Achievement Medal; Army Commendation Medal; the National Defense Service Medal; Global War on Terrorism Service Medal; the Army Service Ribbon; Combat Action Badge; and a Driver and Mechanic Badge. She and other members of her platoon also received a Meritorious Honor Award from the Department of State.
McQuagge joined the Military Order of the Purple Heart soon after leaving the Army in 2009.
Reflecting on her reasons for joining, she said, “Being in combat really changes a person, and only those who have been there truly understand what it is like and how, after you return, the world is never the same.
"I enjoy being a part of an organization (that) strives to see that veterans are recognized for their service and are remembered.
"I know I was very lucky, and what I endured is nothing (compared) to the price paid by many and who continue to give, every day, in ongoing conflicts," McQuagge said.