Youngwood woman, Air National Guard vet named Military Hero

Mary Pickels
| Monday, Oct. 8, 2012

Deborah Krall admits to being “kind of rebellious” in the 1970s at Hempfield Area High School, where she was one of the first girls to take an industrial arts class.

She had ulterior motives when she took the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery test.

“It was a free test. Who do you think gave the test? Men in uniform. And you got out of half a day of classes. I said, ‘Sign me up,' ” said Krall, 55, of Youngwood.

Her test scores were so good that a teacher provided her with information on the Air National Guard.

Krall wound up serving for 33 years, 30 as an assistant chaplain.

She was honored last month as a Military Hero at the fourth annual American Red Cross Heroes Breakfast in Pittsburgh.

Pauline Duncan, regional military international specialist for the American Red Cross, nominated Krall.

“We work closely with her. If she has concerns or issues with her military families, she knows she can call on us,” Duncan said.

“She tells (families) she is available 24/7, kind of like we are. She's always there for them — for everything,” she said.

Duncan said Krall contacts the Red Cross to arrange community service briefings for families preparing for a deployment.

The two are working together to arrange CPR and first aid classes for soldiers and their families.

Krall spent her National Guard career with the 171st Air Refueling Wing in Moon.

She began working as a photographer and took on numerous civilian jobs over the years. Since 2001, she has worked full time as the unit's airmen and family readiness program manager, supporting military families during a deployment.

She met her former husband, Doug Krall, while serving in the National Guard. The two are the parents of three adult children, one of whom is active in the Guard and one who served for six years.

After a few years with the Guard, Krall cross-trained as a chaplain assistant.

“I found a home,” she said.

Krall eventually obtained the rank of master sergeant. At one point, she was the most deployed chaplain assistant in the Air National Guard and had traveled to Italy, France, Cuba, the Middle East, Spain and Germany. Her assignments typically lasted from 30 to 90 days.

Those experiences can help her relate to the families she works with, Krall said.

“I always say to them, I started out in high school, got married, had kids, became a single parent, then saw my children deployed,” she said.

In the early 1990s, she served in Cuban refugee camps, a departure from her usual assignments working with military members on a base. Working largely with men who had sought asylum in the United States, and spoke little English, Krall felt overwhelmed.

“I thought, ‘What does God think I have to give these people?'” she said.

She was further intimidated when a chaplain supervisor told her she was to “impact” someone's life every day.

A conversation with a fellow assistant chaplain taught her that something as simple as a smile could make an impact for the refugees.

“That has made a difference in my life. Making eye contact, smiling, taking a little more time to listen. ... You can make a difference; one person can.”

“I hope that's my epitaph when I'm gone. I did make an impact, however big or small,” Krall said.

Krall has earned numerous military decorations.

In her civilian position, she especially enjoys working with Operation: Military Kids. A network of sponsors support the program, which provides outings and activities for military families' children.

Krall has taught Sunday School for about three decades, the last 25 at Christian and Missionary Alliance Church in Greensburg.

“We were a Christian family. My grandfather was a minister. My grandparents always bragged that they took their kids to church — they did not send them. Mind did the same, and so did I,” she said.

Krall found the Red Cross award “humbling.”

In addition to her children, she invited her former supervisor at the 171st, Brig. Gen. (Ret.) William Boardley, to the awards ceremony.

“He saw something in me I did not see. I wanted to live up to what he saw in me. He believed in me,” Krall said. “I had my personal hero at my hero's breakfast.”

Mary Pickels is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-5401 or

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