A woman in Aledo spent more than 20 years serving in the military.

“My name is Amy Hess, and I served in the Illinois Air National Guard, the Illinois Army National Guard and the Army Reserves from 1989 to 2012,” said Hess.

That service is a tradition in her family.

“My dad also served,” said Hess. “He retired from the Illinois Army National Guard, and it’s just kind of something our family does.”

Hess says she graduated from high school and left two weeks later.

“It was fast and furious and a whole lot of different people and personalities and trying to get along to go along, but it was exciting. I enjoyed the field, I enjoyed the training. I enjoyed learning everything from first aid to land navigation,” said Hess. “I think I was very much a ‘boots on the ground’ from the get-go. Basic training was a lot of fun in that regard. You make friends that you kind of keep in touch with for a while, and that camaraderie starts early.”

Hess was deployed to Saudi Arabia and describes her time spent there.

“I will never, never forget the doors opening and walking out and just the sauna, and it’s 3:00 in the morning. It’s almost like having a hot, hot blow dryer in your face. It’s that hot, and it’s 3:00 in the morning,” said Hess. “The first thing I noticed is that it’s just abstract, just no color — just 100 shades of brown, clay, sand, grit, but no color.”

Hess recalls the moment she got off the plane after returning home.

“On the return trip, to this day 19 years later, I can still feel that moment. The color of green. I mean, to go back to that color and those senses, and to come off the airplane — I came home in the middle of June — so there’s all this green, and it’s just lush, and it’s just beautiful,” said Hess. “Of course, it’s homecoming, so you feel that anyway, but to have that sense of return was huge.”

Now, Hess’s children are carrying on the family legacy.

“My twins are 21, and my son is in the Marines, and my daughter … she is a junior at the University of Illinois. She’s a premed major, and she’s also serving in the Illinois Air National Guard,” said Hess. “They have many family members — uncles and grandparents — that have served. They’ll tell you that’s what their family does, and that’s why they do it, but I also know that they believe in what they do.”

Hess is still active in the veteran community. She has volunteered as a guardian on the Honor Flight of the Quad Cities.