CONWAY — Retired Arkansas Army National Guard Col. Anita Deason has been serving her country for most of her life. She joined the National Guard when she was 19 and retired in 2013 after a 33-year career.
Deason came out of retirement in 2015 to serve the country in another capacity. She is the military and Veterans Affairs liaison in the Little Rock office of U.S. Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark.
Deason, now 58, is among 15 Arkansas veterans who have been selected to the Arkansas Military Veterans’ Hall of Fame.
“It is such a humbling honor just to be nominated by someone,” Deason said. “I am so honored and so humbled. … There are so many others who are more deserving than me. It is quite an honor. … I am totally speechless.”
The Arkansas Military Veterans’ Hall of Fame was organized in late 2010 and recognized on April 4, 2011, with a joint resolution from the Arkansas
Legislature and then-Gov. Mike Beebe. According to information found on the Hall of Fame’s website, www.amvhof.org, the purpose of the nonprofit organization is “to honor Arkansas military veterans and to educate Arkansans, through the Hall of Fame website, of their outstanding accomplishments.”
Boozman will present Deason and the other inductees with Hall of Fame medallions at a banquet ceremony Saturday at the Hot Springs Convention Center. Tickets may be purchased individually for $55 or $500 for a table of 10 by calling (888) 329-3845.
During her military career, Deason served in a variety of traditional command and staff assignments, including platoon leader, detachment commander, company executive officer and company commander. She was promoted to the rank of colonel during her final assignment as human resources officer for the Arkansas National Guard.
Her awards and decorations include the Legion of Merit, the Meritorious Service Medal with one Oak Leaf Cluster, the Army Commendation Medal with one Oak Leaf Cluster, the Army Achievement Medal with one Oak Leaf Cluster, the Army Reserve Component Achievement Medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters, the Arkansas National Guard Distinguished Service Medal, the Arkansas National Guard Exceptional Service Medal and the Arkansas National Guard Commendation Medal with one Oak Leaf Cluster.
Deason is a member of the National Guard Association of the United States, the American Legion, the Military Officers Association of America and the Military Order of the World Wars. She is also a graduate of Leadership of Greater Little Rock.
“I think service to our communities, state and nation was ingrained in me early on,” said Deason, a daughter of the late Alph and Oleda Herron of Mayflower.
“My father was a World War II veteran. I was in the Girl Scouts. I was in the Jayteens (or Junior Jaycees). I served as a page at the state Capitol, and I went to Arkansas Girls State,” Deason said.
“Besides … I can’t sing, can’t dance, can’t play an instrument, … so service to others is the only gift I have,” she said, smiling.
“I think our military personnel, our veterans and their families are just the salt of the Earth,” Deason said. “I am privileged to have the opportunity to assist those who have served and those currently serving our great nation.”
Her job in Boozman’s office takes her all across Arkansas, visiting military installations, veterans medical facilities and veterans organizations.
“The VA — Veterans
Affairs — has three main divisions — medical care, benefits and mortuary affairs,”
Deason said. “They are all under one umbrella, but they are all separate. Sometimes
veterans don’t know they have to apply for each one separately. Each county has a veterans service officer, and the governor appoints a director of the Arkansas Department of Veterans Affairs.
“There are also numerous veterans service organizations, such as the Disabled American Veterans, Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Legion and others,” she said, “and there are several veterans coalitions in the state.
“We all are working to make sure our veterans get the best services possible.”
Deason also works with the Library of Congress Veterans History Project, which collects and preserves personal stories and other documents from America’s war veterans. She trains others to do these interviews and often does an interview herself.
“And once a month, the senator will post one of these stories on his Facebook page,” Deason said. “This has been beneficial to some veterans as old friends have reached out to them and reconnected. That’s really sweet when that happens.”
Deason said she does think about retirement, but for now, “I’m just playing it by ear,”
She said she enjoys traveling both in Arkansas and out of the country. She has made recent trips to Italy and Costa Rica.
“Traveling is my passion,” she said, laughing. “I do that just for me … just for fun.
“I love nature. I love to hike and kayak. I’m also a bird geek. … I love to watch birds.”
Deason has one son, Zach Long, 27, who lives with his wife, Saki Nakata, in Hawaii, where he is working on his doctorate in history. Saki is from Japan, and Deason said she thinks the couple may move there when Zach finishes his degree. Zach did a study-abroad program in Japan the summer after graduating from Conway High School. Then while working on his bachelor’s degree at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, he was an exchange student at Shimane University in Matsue, Japan. That is where he met his wife.
“I have been to visit them twice in Hawaii since they moved there,” Deason said. “Tentatively, I am going back to Hawaii for Christmas and New Year’s.
“I have been to Japan three times and will definitely travel there again. We are talking about a trip to Mount Fuji, Japan, together in 2019. Next, my big dream plan is to go to Ireland, Scotland and Wales. … I love, love to travel.”