BELCHERTOWN, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -- Western Mass News 'Salute to Veterans' this month highlights the work of men and women during the war in Iraq.

We sat down with a Belchertown couple who's story of service didn't end after they left the military.

Growing up, Scott Mcallister never thought about joining the army.

"I remember recruiters in high school and I never really gave it a second thought. I remember thinking there was no way I'd join the military."

But after two semesters of college and the bills started piling up, Scott decided to look into the military's benefits and in March 2003 he enlisted in the Army.

"It was right after 9/11 when we were entering Iraq and you get that sense of patriotism and you get that sense of service and want to do something." 

Scott served two deployments.

From 2004 to 2005 he was at Camp Victory in Iraq right outside of Baghdad.

And from 2006 to 2008 he found himself back on those same battlegrounds.

"The second deployment it was more of the same. Same location, same offices, kind of the same grind. It was like I never left. A lot of indirect fire, rockets, motors, small arms fire." 

Scott tells Western Mass News things were very intimate in Iraq.

Getting to know the people you serve next to, very well.

"When you get there, you have a sense of patriotism and a sense of pride, and when you're over there you're serving for the people next to you. You're connecting to the people," Scott says.

One of the people Scott found himself serving alongside was Kelly.

"I went over kind of in the middle of the surge. It was in October 2007. It was a particularly hostile and violent time within Iraq. Obviously I had no idea what to expect and just the cultural shift of the weather, the time change, the environment. It was hard to get used to for sure. My first night there was a rocket attack and my roommate was like screaming at me to get in a ditch."

Kelly worked with foreign claims, later moving to a role in charge of keeping track of every U.S. Army death in Iraq.

"While at first I think it was pretty overwhelming and heavy, I also felt a really strong sense of need to be apart of that and make sure they were done right. I also worked with the soldiers families to make sure they got a story of what happened to their loved one without maybe any details they didn't need to hear and also keeping operational security and details to keep the rest of our troops safe," Kelly tells us.

The two became close friends finding support in one another during difficult times.

Their relationship continued when they came back to the U.S.

And last year, they officially tied the knot celebrating 11 years together.

Now living in Belchertown their service to our country hasn't stopped.

Kelly Mcallister is a clinician psychologist at the Springfield Vets Center.

"Mental health services, readjustment counseling services and we also try to build community. We do a lot of events and get together. I think that's a huge thing that everyone misses from the military is the camaraderie and how close people are and how you trust people and you know you can be yourself so we try to rebuild that in the community here as veterans," she says.

And Scott works as a clinical social worker for Veteran's Affairs helping homeless veterans.

"Being able to still be connected in some way to serving those who serve, it's very rewarding," Scott says.

This month, we salute Scott and Kelly Mcallister for their service in Iraq and work today helping local veterans.

If you would like to nominate a local veteran -- active or retired -- who's story should be heard, email:  salute@westernmassnews.com

Copyright 2019 Western Mass News (Meredith Corporation).  All rights reserved.

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