It’s personal: Afghanistan Veteran reflects on purpose of service


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Lyons at FOB in Afghanistan

LCpl Edward Lyons (left) and some of his platoon members rest after just arriving at their FOB (Forward Operating Base) Hasan Abad in Helmand Province, Garmsir District Afghanistan.

Edward Lyons recently learned he will join Sarasota National Cemetery in Florida after his graduation from the NCA Cemetery Director Internship Program in July.  Ed’s service to his country and our Veterans isn’t something new, it’s a longstanding relationship that is personal to him.

Raised in Davenport, Iowa with an extensive military family background, including his grandfather and namesake who served in the Army during WWII and fought in Germany, it was only natural that Ed joined the U.S. Marine Corps at 18.  Soon after joining he was deployed to Afghanistan, but his time there didn’t last long.  On November 25, 2009, Ed’s life changed forever, when he was struck by an IED blast while conducting counter insurgency operations.

Ed was immediately medevacked out of Afghanistan with life threatening injuries.  As a result, he lost his left hand, suffered from internal injuries and TBI.  The road to recovery was a long one and he was a VA patient for over 2 years.

The toughest battle Ed faced after returning home was lying in a hospital bed feeling helpless, not able to return to his friends and teammates as they remained deployed.  But the worst was seeing some of them return after giving the ultimate sacrifice, while he was safe at home.  This was especially hard to face when he learned his friend and fellow Marine, Private First Class Jason Estopinal (pictured far right in photo above) was killed in action.

Lyons raising memorial flag

Edward Lyons raises the flag pole for the memorial walk at Fort Logan National Cemetery for Memorial Day 2018

As survivors guilt set in, Ed had a difficult time finding his niche after being medically retired.  He was no longer a Marine Infantryman, and he found the cultural difference between that world and his new life as a civilian hard to navigate.

Ed’s brother, Gerard Lyons, Assistant Director for Florida National Cemetery and Army Veteran of the Iraq War spoke of NCA often, but at the time it wasn’t of interest to Ed.  That all changed in 2014 when Ed attended the Yellowstone National Cemetery Grand Opening and Memorial Day Ceremony.  At that ceremony, Ed recognized the value in the work his brother and NCA do for our Veterans and their families.  He saw the importance of what his brother was doing, and he wanted a piece of it too.

Lyons with USMA Reeves

Lyons and Under Secretary for Memorial Affairs Randy Reeves during NCA Cemetery Director Intern Program.

Ed knew his purpose in life was to serve others, so he applied for a position at Fort Logan National Cemetery in Denver Colorado.  It was there that Ed quickly recognized this is what he was meant to do.  He once again felt part of the community and brotherhood that he thought he left behind in Afghanistan.

Ed fell in love with the mission and to this day continues to do the very best he can to provide love, support and compassion to families that have entrusted NCA with the care of their Veterans.

As Ed’s career progresses, it’s his personal mission and goal to treat every family in a way he hopes someone did for his friends.  Helping Veterans and their families has become cathartic and has helped to give him closure, for the friends he left behind in Afghanistan and for the ones that never made it home.

Working for NCA gives Ed the opportunity to memorialize his fellow brothers and sisters every day, including PFC Estopinal who is interred at Georgia National Cemetery and Ed’s inspiration for the mission we have at NCA.  When speaking with Ed about his NCA career he closed with, “this is more than a job for me, this is personal and who better to serve our Veterans than a Veteran.”


Portrait of Miller, TiffanyAbout the Author: Tiffany Miller is the speechwriter to the Under Secretary for Memorial Affairs. is responsible for the overall communication strategy and messaging for the Under Secretary, and ensuring the National Cemetery Administration’s (NCA) key themes and priorities are accurately and effectively conveyed.

Prior to this appointment, Ms. Miller served as the Director for Digital Engagement and Strategy for the Office of the Secretary of Defense from June 2017 to January 2019.

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Comments

  1. Sara Elton    

    Ed, we love you! Thank you so much for sharing. Your NCA family is waiting for you out in the field again. Congratulations to you and the rest of the Cemetery Director Interns about to graduate in July!

  2. Eric Cipriano    

    We all need to find and value our meaning and purpose in life – whether on active duty or as a veteran. Our sense of service needs to continue – this story is an excellent example of continuing our search and struggle for meaningful purpose in our world. Thanks, Ed and Tiffany for sharing this valuable lesson with us.

  3. media    

    How can we get detailed information about application details?

Comments are closed.