WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — After joining the National Guard in 1980 at the behest of his brother, Lyle Pearson would go on active duty in 1993, stationed at Fort Riley and later in Korea as a Tank Commander.

Then in 2004, 24 years after he joined the military, Pearson would deploy from Fort Lewis, Washington, to Mosul, Iraq, beginning his first of three tours in the Middle East.

“I arrived just in time for my unit to deploy,” Pearson said.

During Operation Iraqi Freedom, Army Staff Sergeant Lyle Pearson was assigned to the 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division. Their primary mission: keep soldiers supplied in Northern Iraq.

“We turned in our tanks, and we became strikers,” Pearson said.

Less than 24 hours after arriving in Mosul, Pearson lost a close friend.

“Major Moore, our S-2, our brigade S-2, took a mortar … and I’d spoken with Major Moore on a daily basis for months,” Pearson said.

Just before Christmas 2004, Pearson and his unit made their way out of Mosul on their way to Talafar, Iraq. Days later, a lone suicide bomber entered the Forward Operating Marez, the base where Pearson was initially stationed.

The attack on the base, known as the Mosul DFAC (Dining Facility) bombing, was the deadliest attack against U.S. Military personnel during the Iraqi War, killing 22 people.

Among the dead was one of Pearson’s good friends: 31-year-old Capt. William Jacobsen, Jr. with the 1st Battalion, 24th Infantry Regiment.

“And there were multiple people that I knew from that deployment that died or were injured,” Pearson said.

When asked if he ever deals with survivor’s guilt, Pearson replied, “All the time. All the time.”

While in Talafar, Pearson’s FOB (Forward Operating Base Speicher) was constantly under attack.

“And we were getting hit there,” Pearson said, “Rockets, mortars … we had people infiltrating our FOB all the time. And, it became commonplace for them to kill people, and take their uniforms, and sneak in as Talafar police onto the FOB.”

A few years later, Pearson would deploy to Iraq as a Platoon Sergeant with the 10th Cavalry Combat Aviation Brigade.

“We did the maintenance for all the wheels, all the wheeled vehicles within my battalion,” said Pearson. “We were on call all the time in case something went wrong, and it happened all the time.”

Pearson’s third and final tour was also with the 10th Cavalry, this time to Air Force Base in Afghanistan.

“That place got hit constantly,” Pearson said, “There was a group of national guardsmen, that either the next day or the day after, they were supposed to be going home, and a mortar hit directly into their B-Hut … It’s hard when you lose people … I’ve lost friends, I’ve lost some people that I even considered family … It’s something you carry with you for the rest of your life.”

After 34 years in the military, Pearson would retire in 2014. He says he wouldn’t have changed anything about his time in the service, passing along his love for the military to his children. His oldest daughter joined the Navy, while his middle daughter joined the Army in the footsteps of her father.

If you would like to nominate a veteran for our Veteran Salute, email KSN reporter Hannah Adamson at hannah.adamson@ksn.com.